John Oliver is not a doctor, but he apparently played one on his program Sunday night.
In a new episode of “Last Week Tonight,” the talk show host made a slew of false and misleading claims about “gender-affirming” care and the adolescents seeking it. Most of his smugly-delivered claims relied on jabs at Republicans, clips taken out of context, straw-man arguments and activist-approved talking points.
In a recent article published in City Journal, Leor Sapir, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, rebutted each claim Oliver made, beginning with Oliver’s insistence on shoe-horning transgender-related issues under the umbrella of “LGBTQ rights.”
“Oliver demonstrates his lack of critical thinking at the outset, when he informs his audience that he is about to discuss ‘LGBTQ rights,’” said Sapir. “This is yet another example of activists using the LGB as a cover for the T, exploiting public sympathy for the former in order to conceal the radical nature of the latter,” he adds.
Oliver attributes “societal acceptance” for the meteoric rise in transgender identification, but contradicts himself in the next breath by saying America is a hostile environment for “LGBTQ” people, rife with “violence, threats and harassment.”
“If ‘trans kids’ … are coming out in droves because of warming social attitudes rather than ‘social contagion’ (an explanation he dismisses as ‘horse s***’), it cannot also be the case that American is increasingly becoming a hell-hole for ‘LGBTQ’ people,” said Sapir.
Oliver incessantly frames any criticism of transgender-related issues as a right-wing overreaction. “Some on the right have truly lost their minds about trans rights,” Oliver diatribes, relying on clips from Republican candidates running for office who have used trans issues as part of their political campaigns, but neglecting to include the various ways Democrats have also used it to elevate their platforms.
“He attributes all opposition to the trans movement to ‘the right,’ as if feminists, gay rights activists, and even some transgender (or transsexual, as they often prefer to be called) people and groups are not key constituencies in the opposition to medical transition for minors,” said Sapir, who believes that this was a deliberate choice.
“This framing is clearly intended to persuade moderates and liberals that they are safe in supporting ‘gender affirming care’ because only ‘those people’ oppose it—never anyone with secular, progressive values,” he adds.
In what may have been an attempt at humor, Oliver dismisses the social-contagion hypothesis as “total horses***.” The social-contagion theory posits that peer influence may contribute to trans-identification, especially in the extraordinarily high rates of teenage girls in recent years seeking transition.
“Oliver’s dismissal of social contagion—which, to be sure, remains a working theory—is highly irresponsible, and disingenuous,” Sapir said.
“Scholars with years of experience treating and doing research on minors with gender dysphoria have observed a dramatic increase in the sheer number of teens showing up for transition, in their sex ratios, age at onset of conditions, and high rates of mental health problems alongside gender distress,” he added.
Oliver makes an appeal to authority by citing the medical institutions that caved to transgender ideology.
“American medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have gotten the science wrong in the past; there is no reason to assume that this could not happen again,” said Sapir.
Another major revelation missing from Oliver’s bit is any mention of progressive countries such as Sweden and Finland that have changed course in treating adolescents with gender dysphoria in favor of a more cautious approach.
“Oliver never once mentions Sweden and Finland, or the systematic reviews of the evidence that have led their health authorities to place severe restrictions on hormones,” said Sapir.
Oliver narrows his focus to “gender-affirming” care, the model adopted by pediatric gender clinics across the county that discourage medical professionals from questioning a minor’s self-reported transgender identity or exploring possible underlying factors that may be causing their dysphoria.
“Oliver makes the very misleading claim that ‘social transition’ (using a child’s preferred name and pronouns) is totally harmless,” said Sapir. “In fact, all available research suggests that this seemingly innocent act of support is an active psychosocial intervention with potentially iatrogenic consequences.”
The comedian also claims that puberty blocking drugs are “reversible” and only a “pause button” on puberty. However, this relies entirely on referencing their approved on-label use to treat precocious puberty in young children, not how they are increasingly being prescribed off-label to treat gender dysphoria in adolescents.
Oliver briefly concedes that sterility “can happen” as a result of these treatments, which Sapir said is misleading.
“When taken as a follow-up to puberty blockers, sterility is virtually guaranteed, since the organs responsible for producing sex gametes (ova and sperm) are not allowed to develop,” he said.
The talk show host also neglected to mention the impact that the combination of puberty blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones have on sexual function such as impairing an individual’s ability to ever achieve an orgasm.
“Transgender surgeon Dr. Marci Bowers infamously conceded that of the 2,000 or so people on whom she has operated, none have been able to achieve sexual satisfaction,” said Sapir.
Oliver deceptively cites a statistic on the transition regret rate of adults and attributes it to the subject of his program: adolescents. “The 2% statistic is taken from studies on those who transitioned as adults, not minors who were transitioned under the ‘affirmative’ protocol,” said Sapir, who says that studies on the rates of regret for minors receiving gender affirming care don’t yet exist.
Throughout his segment, Oliver features several interviews with trans-identifying teens and children, but deprives his audience of a truly balanced segment on gender-affirming care by neglecting to include the testimony of detransitioners. “Perhaps he is afraid that if allowed to tell their story, they will elicit sympathy and skepticism toward the medical professionals who rushed them into irreversible harm,” remarks Sapir.
“The benefits of providing care are immense and the risks of withholding it are dire,” said Oliver, relying on the debunked affirm-or-suicide myth often perpetuated by activists.
Studies that claim “trans” youth are at elevated risk of suicide are commonly compared with average mentally healthy teenagers, which is deeply misleading. When researchers compared “trans” youth with teens suffering from similar mental health problems, there was little difference in suicide rates between the groups.