Fresh off the heels of Jon Stewart's egregious promotion of medical gender transition for children, John Oliver has become the latest uninformed celebrity to blunder into the transgender debate, dedicating an episode of Last Week Tonight to the controversy surrounding “gender affirming care.”
Oliver uses the standard trans activist tactic of focusing on so-called “trans kids” just trying to live their lives and be accepted by a cruel, unjust world to pull on the heartstrings of viewers. Kai Shappley features heavily in the segment, and is shown testifying before the Texas State legislature last year. But Shappley and her husband were incredibly anti-gay, and preferred having a trans child to a gay one.
“I do not like spending my free time asking adults to make good choices,” said Shappley. “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.”
“If a child has to be an activist, we have already failed that child,” laments Oliver, who went on to say that Shappley should just get to be a kid and enjoy life.
The choice to include Shappley is an interesting one. Shappley’s mother has spoken of how she was horrified at the thought of having a gay son,how she researched conversion therapy and tried to implement it at home when Kai was a young child. She and her husband would spank Kai for "stealing girl toys."
The theory that many homophobic parents would rather transition their children than have an extremely gender-nonconforming gay child is not uncommon. Whistleblowers at the soon-to-be-closed Tavistock gender clinic in London raised safeguarding concerns that some homophobic parents were attempting to trans away the gay.
In the segment, Oliver laughably suggests that “it’s not the left talking about trans rights non-stop” but conservatives. He claims that the obliteration of female-only sports categories is of no importance, that there’s no social contagion of gender dysphoria sweeping through the adolescent population, and that “gender-affirming care” is evidence based.
Leor Sapir, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, called the segment “little more than a misinformed genuflection to activists” in a blistering rebuttal published the following day.
Sapir called the claim that it is Republicans who have made the trans issue a national furor “so demonstrably false one doesn’t even know where to begin to debunk it.” He also points to the glaring contradiction of both claiming that more people are coming out as transgender because society is more accepting while at the same time suggesting that the U.S. is a hotbed of “anti-trans” hostility.
“Oliver can’t have it both ways,” Sapir astutely pointed out. “If ‘trans kids’...are coming out in droves because of warming social attitudes rather than ‘social contagion’... it cannot also be the case that America is increasingly a hellhole for ‘LGBTQ’ people.”
On the subject of Lisa Littman’s 2018 hypothesis of rapid-onset gender dysphoria, which posits that many of the adolescents who suddenly identify as transgender at puberty may be doing so due to peer influence and social factors, Oliver felt confident in dismissing the theory as “total horseshit” on the grounds that Littman used parent reports gathered from groups skeptical of child transition.
However, Oliver fails to mention, and is likely unaware, that those same methodologies have been used in several studies that support gender-affirming care for minors and have never been met with protest from activists.
To further discredit the social contagion theory, Oliver used one of the silliest arguments in the trans activist playbook: comparing the meteoric rise in young people identifying as transgender to the increase in lefthanded people after schools stopped forcing all children to use their right hand.
Sapir uses statistics to plainly show how awful this analogy is. He explains how the percentage of left-handed Americans rose from “roughly 4% in 1900 to 12% by 1960, where it has remained ever since - in other words, a threefold rise over the course of about 60 years.”
Sapir compares this to the fact that “transgender identifcation among youth has risen by a factor of between 150 and 1,050” and that this has happened “over the course of less than a decade - not, as with left-handedness, 60 years.”
Further evidence that we are dealing with a social contagion is that the sex ratio of young people experiencing gender dysphoria has flipped from predominantly boys and starting in early childhood, to mostly girls with a sudden onset at puberty. Oliver conveniently overlooked this when so confidently dismissing the theory as “total horseshit.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Nicholas Christakis, who is arguably the world’s leading expert on social contagion, tweeted that he believes there is a large element of social contagion involved. Oliver must have missed that.
Oliver went on to suggest that “gender-affirming care” is science-based because it is backed by medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, but fails to mention the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the group that recently recognized eunuch as a valid gender identity that even children can identify as. But just because a treatment has the backing of influential associations doesn’t make it ethical. In the 1940s, the lobotomy was a groundbreaking new procedure so widely celebrated that its inventor, Antonio Egas Moniz, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949 for its invention.
Oliver also leaves out developments elsewhere in the world, such as the systematic reviews done by Sweden, Finland, and England’s Cass review, which all found evidence for gender-affirming care to be of very low quality leading to these nations reversing their stance on the medical transition of young people.
Jesse Singal tweeted that it was “extremely irresponsible for John Oliver to claim that puberty blockers are reversible. The NHS *deleted this claim from its website* because no one actually knows. There are all sorts of unanswered questions involving not just bone density but cognitive development.”
Oliver also fails to address the rising number of detransitioners, making the false claim that only 2 percent of people regret their transition, and lays the blame for that regret on a transphobic society that cannot accept transgender people for who they are.
This statistic is from a study done before the modern trans rights movement came along with its demands that all young people be affirmed and put on a medical pathway. More recent studies show a detransition rate far higher than previously thought.
While Oliver laments the fact that young “trans kids” are forced to be political activists, he shows no concern for the young men and women who have been harmed by “gender-affirming care” and find themselves advocating for better care for young gender-confused people. He doesn’t mention 18-year-old Chloe Cole, who began her transition as a confused 13-year-old and had a medically unnecessary bilateral mastectomy at 15 and now also spends her time testifying before legislative committees about the harm of rushing minors into irreversible procedures.
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