Van Ness, 36, appeared on the Monday, September 25, episode of Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast to discuss his own podcast, “Getting Curious.” The interview began with the pair mutually praising one another, but things started to get tense when Shepard, 48, said it was “insane” that President Joe Biden is the country’s “best option.”
The duo then clashed over the question of whether The New York Times is a left-leaning newspaper, with Van Ness arguing that it isn’t because of several recent articles about gender-affirming care that some readers interpreted as anti-trans. In response, Shepard said he thinks the paper was simply “challenging” the idea that preteens and teens should be allowed to take puberty blockers and hormones.
“Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning,” Shepard said. “How do we know that the person’s not gonna change their mind? Then there’s another counterargument. If they kill themselves, then that’s really f–king permanent. … To even question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward.”
Van Ness wasn’t convinced, telling Shepard, “I feel like I’m talking to my dad.” The Queer Eye host went on to explain why transgender athletes don’t actually have the competitive advantage that detractors like to claim they do.
“There’s just so many things that are so much more important and we’re over here being like, ‘Well, there’s legitimate concerns [about transgender athletes],’” Van Ness said. “All I’m saying is what we know about misinformation and disinformation is when you have an outsized reaction to something, there’s a good chance that you’re being exposed to misinformation and disinformation. And a lot of the rhetoric around the anti-trans backlash does have a lot of misinformation and disinformation in it.”
As Shepard continued to push back against Van Ness’ arguments, Van Ness pointed out that as a nonbinary person himself, he finds it “disappointing” to realize how many people “think they’re really fighting” for women when they exclude trans kids from sports.
“I’m a nonbinary f–king trans person. When I talk to my dad or people who say similar things, it’s hard to be cool through that,” he said. “I’m not calling you a transphobe. You can not be transphobic and still have thoughts that espouse trans misogyny and espouse transphobic ideologies or beliefs and not be transphobic.”
After Shepard apologized and said he “did not intend at all” to start a debate on the subject of trans rights, Van Ness broke down in tears as he explained why the topic is so important to him.
“I could just cry because I’m so tired of having to fight for little kids because they just want to be included,” Van Ness told Shepard. “I wish that people were as passionate about little kids being able to be included or grow up as they were about fictitious women’s fairness in sports. I have to tell you I am very tired.”
Van Ness went on to describe the conversation as “trigger city,” adding that he’s “emotionally exhausted” from having to defend transgender rights as a person who still struggles with his own gender expression. “I don’t know that I don’t live like this because I’m scared of the vitriol that trans people feel every day,” he explained. “For people who are like, ‘You’re so authentic and you’re so brave, I’m not.’”
The debate finally ended with Shepard and cohost Monica Padman apologizing to Van Ness before changing the subject. “It is what it is,” Van Ness concluded.