Actor and comedian Dax Shepard is facing media and public ire after saying it’s important to be able to have open conversation and debate on his podcast “Armchair Expert.” Speaking with non-binary guest Jonathan Van Ness, who uses all pronouns, Shepard expressed the importance of being able to ask questions about issues surrounding young people transitioning or the safety of biological males playing in women’s sports.
According to Shepard, it’s disheartening that even if he agrees with Van Ness—or others—on nine out of 10 points, disagreeing on one point makes him the enemy. “To even question it makes you an enemy—I don’t think that’s the way forward,” Shepard said.
Van Ness dismissed Shephard, saying, “There isn’t legitimate questioning going on. There is a public targeted onslaught toward queer people.” But Shepard is—and has long been—a vocal ally for the LGBTQ+ community, even postponing his own wedding with actress Kristen Bell until gay marriage was legalized. The disagreement was not about the rights of queer people; it was about censorship.
In stating his belief that people should be able to ask reasonable questions, especially about the health and well-being of children, Shepard was accused by Van Ness—and subsequently, the public—of “threatening to take someone’s rights away.”
Shepard is the father of two daughters, ages 8 and 10, so it’s understandable that these issues would be on his mind. He stood up for women when discussing the issue of sports—while also expressing sympathy for biological males who felt excluded. “Do I wish that the trans woman athlete had access and could play and follow her dreams? I do,” he said, “Will I elevate her rights over women? We’re pretending that women aren’t the ultimate marginalized class throughout history.”
Van Ness dismissed these concerns, saying that the idea of biological males in sports is “a bogeyman to make us feel that our girls are being attacked.” Countless examples exist of women losing opportunities to biologically male athletes, yet Van Ness acted as though this was hypothetical hate speech. Once the episode aired to the public, the public and media rallied around Van Ness in agreement, using rhetoric like “damaging,” “anti-trans,” “fury,” and “propaganda.” Shepard has not given in to public pressure to apologize for his line of thinking, nor to remove the episode from its platform.