ICYMI: Watch John Oliver Hit Back Against Latest Round of Attacks on Transgender Youth

by Henry Berg-Brousseau

Segment on “Last Week Tonight” Follows “The Problem with Jon Stewart” Episode; Both Combat Disinformation About Transgender Youth

Watch the Segment Here

As extremist politicians continue their unprecedented legislative assault on transgender individuals – especially transgender children and young people – working overtime to shamelessly advance discrimination on a scale never seen before, the newest episode of HBO’s hit show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver discusses the newest threats facing transgender rights. The episode comes one week after Jon Stewart debunked anti-transgender myths on his AppleTV show, “The Problem with Jon Stewart.”

“This powerful segment from John Oliver, is another excellent example of a comedian doing high-quality, thorough reporting on transgender rights while refuting rampant lies and disinformation,” said Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President for Programs, Research, and Training Jay Brown. “With the rights of transgender individuals under attack by state legislators around the country, it is of utmost urgency that these issues are elevated in our national discourse. We are grateful that prominent figures are talking about these important issues and debunking virulent anti-trans propaganda.”


Excerpts from the show:

“This year alone over a hundred anti-trans bills have been introduced in state houses, and twelve states have signed or enacted them, with all of this happening against a backdrop of violence and threats including attacks and harassment aimed at hospitals providing gender-affirming care to youth.”

We're going to be taking the arguments behind a lot of these anti-trans bills seriously – but not sincerely – because of what they're doing so often they seem to be based more on political calculation than what is actually happening.

“To be very clear there is ample evidence of gender variance throughout human history. And as far back as historians have found evidence of trans people, they found trans children. As for the rapid rise in kids identifying as trans, the writer Julia Serrano has pointed out that when you look at a chart of left-handedness among Americans over the 20th century you see a massive spike when we stopped forcing kids to write with their right hand, and then a plateau. That doesn't mean everyone became left-handed or there was a rapid onset of South Paw Dysphoria it means people were free to be who they were.”

“So much of the fear of and arguments against transgender people seems to flow from misinformation and misunderstanding. Maybe the biggest and most dangerous area of ignorance surrounds the concept of gender-affirming care in recent years. Four states have enacted bans or restrictions on youth access to it and over a dozen more have considered similar legislation this year alone. They have been fueled by a lack of basic knowledge about what gender-affirming care actually consists of.”

“Let's break down exactly what gender-affirming care consists of because in younger children it can mean nothing more than a social transition, like calling them by a new name or giving them a new haircut or clothing… Because, to be very clear, prepubescent children are not eligible for medical interventions. Now at the onset of puberty, an adolescent and their family might consider puberty blockers hormones that delay [puberty] – and importantly if that treatment is suspended then puberty will resume – meaning that this is reversible. Think of it like a pause button. All of this would only happen after a team of medical professionals discussed all of its risks and benefits with their patients and their patient's parent or guardians – all of whom would have to sign off on it. Basically, no kid is casually dropping into an operating room because they just decided to get their uterus removed with the impulsive recklessness normally associated with getting bangs.

The benefits of providing care are immense, and the risks of withholding it are dire. A survey of trans people found that of those who wanted hormone therapy and didn't receive it, 58% reported suicidal thoughts in a given year. This is why the three major professional associations of child and adolescent doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists have endorsed gender-affirming care and condemned efforts to deny it.”

“I love ballet, math, science, and geology. I spend my free time with my cats and chickens, FaceTiming my friends, and dreaming of when I will finally meet Dolly Parton. I do not like spending my free time asking adults to make good choices. It just makes me sad that some politicians use trans kids like me to get votes from people who hate me just because I exist. God made me. God loves me for who I am and God does not make mistakes.” – Transgender youth activist, Kai Shapley

“I am glad that Kai is advocating for herself, but if a child has to be an activist we have already failed that child because she should just get to be a kid and enjoy her life. I'm actually glad that you got to hear her talk about ballet and FaceTime and Dolly Parton because there is something that too often gets left out of these stories and that is joy. While opponents of trans rights will say that these kids are either a menace or brainwashed, their defenders will often gravitate towards the same sad statistics that I've shown you tonight – of depression and suicide…It's clearly not the whole story, which is that when supported trans kids can experience full vibrant lives because trans people are not by default unhappier or more prone to suffering than everyone else. That is something that we are putting on them.”

“Hope and joy are crucial here. They are the fuel that powers the ongoing vote for equality. And while there is a lot of fear and uncertainty right now, it is worth remembering that progress while not always linear is always possible. We are working toward the goal of every trans kid knowing that they are loved, valued and indispensable as Dolly Parton… and never ever going back to a point where anyone feels that if they appear on TV they have to hide behind a plant.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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