Political comedy show The Problem with Jon Stewart’s latest episode is a great example of how to tactfully cover trans health care and push back against anti-trans misinformation – something all mainstream media outlets should be working to emulate in the face of the right’s escalating assault on the trans community, in particular trans youth.
Mainstream media has consistently dropped the ball on providing meaningful coverage of transgender issues, often favoring conflict and both-sides framing over facts. In contrast, host Jon Stewart’s panel was exclusively made up of transgender activists and allies. Instead of hosting anti-trans bigots on the panel to manufacture unnecessary conflict or prompt “debate” about trans people’s right to exist, Stewart prioritized providing viewers with reliable information about trans health care by opening space for accurate information from professionals.
When Stewart did eventually interview anti-trans Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, he didn’t allow her to spout misinformation about transgender health care without firm pushback. Stewart criticized her support of Arkansas’ Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, which prohibits crucial gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. (A three-judge panel from the 8th Circuit has ruled that the law “discriminates on the basis of sex”; a full trial begins on October 17.)
In response to Rutledge’s false claims that there is not enough research to support medical interventions for youth experiencing gender dysphoria, and that the proposed law would protect children from “experimentation,” Stewart asked, “You’re suggesting that protecting children means overriding the recommendations of the American Medical Association, the American Association of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society?”
As Stewart demonstrated in his show, the reporting standard should be simple: Media outlets must actively combat misinformation about transgender health care instead of platforming anti-trans bigotry for the sake of a false balance.