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Their conversation took place on a recent episode of Shepard’s podcast, “Armchair Expert.” They were discussing whether The New York Times was really left-leaning since the outlet had allowed a handful of articles to be published that Van Ness deemed “anti-trans.”
Shepard argued that the articles were just asking “questions” and “challenging” more extreme stances, such as teens being permitted to take permanently damaging, irreversible puberty blockers.
“Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning. They’re challenging that. How do we know that the person’s not gonna change their mind?” Shepard said.
“This whole notion that to be critical… or to question even question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward,” Shepard added.
“I feel like I’m talking to my dad,” Van Ness, who identifies as a “non-binary” trans person and demands the use of they/them pronouns, replied.
“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,” the activist continued. “And a lot of the rhetoric around the anti-trans backlash does have a lot of misinformation and disinformation in it.”
Later in the conversation, Van Ness told Shepard, “I’m not calling you a transphobe. You can not be transphobic and still have thoughts that espouse trans misogyny and espouse transphobic ideologies and beliefs.”
Shepard said he “did not intend” to start a debate and insisted he supported trans rights in general. “I didn’t want that at all,” Shepard told the “Queer Eye” alum. “I adore you. I think that you’re hysterical and talented and I love that you’re an activist.”
Van Ness became emotional and began crying. “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 said to Shepard, who apologized again.
Van Ness continued, “You can have racist beliefs and not know you’re racist, just like you can have transphobic beliefs and not realize you have transphobic beliefs. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”