Jon Stewart sets the record straight on gender-affirming care

October 11, 2022

The season two premiere of The Problem with Jon Stewart (watch free here) is an insightful and pointed interrogation of political opportunists and right-wing extremists attempting to ban lifesaving healthcare for trans youth.

“Wow. That’s an incredibly made-up figure,” Stewart tells the Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge after she spouts false data and struggles to respond to questions about her work to ban gender-affirming care for youth. While the Attorney General had trouble backing up any of her claims, Stewart stated the facts. 

Here are some of the real facts about gender-affirming care, cited by Stewart on air:

  • TRUE. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society, the American Psychiatric Association 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. In the five years preceding the ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth, there were no cases of Arkansas youth having received transition-related surgeries. These types of medical interventions simply do not happen with children.
  • TRUE. Parents with children who have gender dysphoria have lost children to suicide and depression because it is acute. This is true.
  • TRUE. Mainstream medical organizations have developed guidelines through peer-reviewed data and studies and by implementing those guidelines they have improved mental health outcomes. 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. Puberty blockers do not change people permanently. This is true.

“I have to do everything I can to save this child’s life”

Stewart also featured an important discussion with parents of trans youth, and legal and medical experts. 

Debi Jackson, who has a transgender child, told her story, explaining that when her daughter starting expressing her true gender, Jackson herself was conservative and unfamiliar with transgender people: “We had no idea what it meant,” but she and her family sought out advice from doctors, including endocrinologists, to get educated about healthcare for trans youth. All major medical associations support gender-affirming care.

Stewart directly asks Dr. Joshua Safer, an endocrinologist: “What are the downsides of not giving gender-affirming care? What would be the harm in waiting?”

Safer replies with the facts about depression and suicide exacerbated by transgender youth being not affirmed. Research from the Trevor Project found that that more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth considered suicide last year.

Jackson brought up what transition can look like - her daughter transitioned socially at the age of four: “It was just name, pronouns, hair, saying daughter instead of son.” 

Keisha Michaels told audiences about the difference it made when she and her family began to support her transgender child: “She literally lit up, she woke up when we supported her. We said, ‘we recognize that this is who you are, and we’re gonna support you in our house, and we’re gonna support you in your life.’” Michaels continued: “Gender-affirming care starts at home.

And what is gender-affirming care? Being respectful.

“Gender-affirming care is supposed to figure out what is right for each individual child,” Stewart explains. His guests agree, and explain that gender-affirming care is about being respectful and listening to your child. Each family will then decide which social and/or medical transition steps are needed in their specific situation.

Addressing disinformation

“The medical establishment is not woke,” Dr. Safer explains. He also explains that there is no big financial conspiracy on behalf of the medical establishment, a lie some opponents have claimed. “The areas of medicine that are brought in for gender-affirming care are heavily mental health, pediatrics, primary care, endocrinology. If you look up where the money centers are in medicine, those are not there.”

Guest Chase Strangio of the ACLU hits on the political realities: “Why are people doing this? We are approaching midterms and a 2024 presidential election,” Strangio explains. Anti-trans legislation has increased over 800% since 2018, Stewart spells out.

Interviewee Keegan Dees sums up the episode well: “This is healthcare. It shouldn’t be a game.”

To read more from major medical associations on gender-affirming care: Check out GLAAD’s list here.

To watch the episode: head to AppleTV+ or click here, this episode is free to watch.