John Oliver explains why gender-affirming care is so important, exposes extremist attacks on trans youth

October 18, 2022

The latest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took a closer look at gender affirming care for trans youth and why right-wing extremists and political opportunists are attacking kids who are trans. The episode had more than 1.5M views in less than 24 hours online. 

The reality for trans youth is “brutal,” Oliver explained. Here are some of the real facts about trans youth and gender-affirming care, cited by Oliver on air:

TRUE: Over 100 anti-trans bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year. This is true. In fact, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 2022, with more than 100 targeting trans people specifically.

TRUE: 18 states have passed laws banning trans youth from sports, yet South Dakota officials were unable to cite any current trans youth playing sports with their friends at school, citing just one trans athlete who graduated a few years ago. This is true - see which states here. And Oliver’s example of South Dakota’s school athletics association counting only one trans student playing sports ever, and none currently, is also true. The AP reported on this phenomenon, reporting: “Legislators in more than 20 states have introduced bills this year that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams in public high schools. Yet in almost every case, sponsors cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems.”

TRUE: Trans youth should be able to play sports with their friends at school. Even the International Olympic Committee isn’t banning trans women from sports. This is true.

TRUE. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry all recommend a clear, science-based set of guidelines for youth that are accessing gender-affirming care. In fact, all major medical associations support lifesaving gender-affirming care for all transgender and nonbinary people.

TRUE: Multiple states have restricted access to gender-affirming care and more than a dozen more states are attempting to do the same. This is true

TRUE: For younger children, gender-affirming care can be simply a social transition, including name, pronouns, haircut, psychological support, etc. Prepubescent children are not eligible for medical interventions. This is true.

TRUE. Puberty blockers are reversible and do not change people permanently. This is true.

TRUE. Successful gender-affirming care involves a young person, along with their family and caregivers, and their mental health providers and their physician, determining what the best course of treatment is. This is true.

TRUE: Far-right extremists who are working overtime to erase conversations about race from schools, branded “critical race theory”, are the same extremists who spread lies about trans youth. This is true.

TRUE. Working class families, families of color, people with fewer resources have less access to gender-affirming care. This is true.

At the end of the episode, John Oliver says "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. And I'm actually glad 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…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."

Actress Michaela Jaé Rodriguez then sums it up: "When it comes to laws being passed, we have to constantly stay diligent and make sure that they don't get passed…but we also have to live our lives and show people how happy we are. We can't live in the sorrow, though there are many struggles for us. In the times of adversity and despair, I choose hope and joy."

The episode can be watched for free on YouTube.

Check out our blog post about The Problem with Jon Stewart episode where he talks to parents of trans kids and confronts the AG of Arkansas over the bill that state passed banning gender-affirming care.