For the second time in a month, podcast host Joe Rogan dedicated his entire show to casting doubt on the identities of trans youth, this time hosting Dr. Debra Soh to discuss her new anti-trans book The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths about Sex and Identity in Our Society.
Throughout the August 5 episode, Soh falsely claimed that the dangerous and ineffective practice of conversion therapy for trans people does not exist and that most trans kids will “grow out” of their trans identity and become gay in adulthood. The two also spread the pervasive and harmful right-wing lie that young trans kids are receiving “radical” care such as irreversible surgeries.
On July 16, Rogan hosted anti-trans writer Abigail Shrier for an interview on his influential podcast, during which the two equated being trans to having anorexia, joining a cult, and “demonic possession.” That video has now received more than 2.1 million views.
Rogan is one of the most popular podcast hosts in the world -- his interview with Soh was uploaded to YouTube on August 5 and has already received nearly 1.2 million views so far. He recently signed an exclusive $100 million licensing agreement with Spotify, where his show The Joe Rogan Experience will begin streaming on September 1. In a press release, Spotify said the show “has long been the most-searched-for podcast on Spotify and is the leading show on practically every other podcasting platform.” It continued, “Bringing the JRE to Spotify will mean that the platform’s more than 286 million active users will have access to one of culture’s leading voices.”
Both Spotify and YouTube, which currently hosts Rogan’s interviews alongside other streaming platforms, have bans on hateful content targeting trans people. YouTube has previously taken action against videos for anti-trans attacks, such as comparing being trans to having a mental illness.
Soh falsely claimed conversion therapy for gender identity does not exist and that therapists can't talk about gender identity
During the podcast, Soh spread misinformation about conversion therapy, a harmful and ineffective practice that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people.
Major medical associations agree that sexuality and gender identity can’t be forcibly changed. According to the American Psychological Association, negative side effects of conversion therapy can include anger, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
At one point in the episode, Soh lied that “there is no such thing as conversion therapy for gender identity” because gender can “change over time,” especially for young people. She lamented measures that protect trans youth from the practice.
In reality, as The Trevor Project’s Sam Brinton explained to Media Matters in 2018, “Conversion therapy has never just been an ‘LGB’ issue” but also targets trans and gender nonconforming people. Additionally, a 2019 study found that the conversion therapy is associated with “severe psychological distress” among trans people who have been exposed to the practice.
Soh also misleadingly claimed that conversion therapy laws prevent therapists from even discussing gender identity with patients and make it so that “clinicians again can’t do their job.” Soh said, “So if we could have this conversation, and if, you know, psychologists could do their job and determine is this really the best outcome for you, then that's, again, their business. But we can't have this conversation at all.”
Rogan mirrored her comments, calling it “terrifying” that “you're not allowed to talk about it.”
Conversion therapy protections do not prohibit conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity but rather prevent therapists from attempting to forcibly change sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, medical professionals recommend therapy for trans youth that is inclusive and affirming and that encourages conversations, questioning, and exploration.
The American Psychological Association has published guidance on providing supportive and respectful care for trans patients that acknowledges differences between gender-questioning youth and youth who are transgender or gender nonconforming. It advises that “because gender nonconformity may be transient for younger children in particular, the psychologist’s role may be to help support children and their families through the process of exploration and self-identification.” It urges therapists to move slowly, cautiously, and deliberately in cases in which a young person has not exhibited “a long history of gender nonconformity.”
As trans advocate Brynn Tannehill has noted in HuffPost, “The entire point of the affirming approach to transgender and gender non-conforming youth is to NOT push them in any particular direction, but to give them a safe space to explore their identity and expression.”
The two pushed the right-wing lie that kids are making “radical, life-altering decisions” like gender affirmation surgeries
Throughout the episode, Rogan and Soh misleadingly claimed that young trans children are independently making “radical, life-altering” medical decisions to transition and would otherwise grow out of their identities.
These myths falsely imply that young trans children are getting gender affirmation surgery and ignore that best practices for care, including the standards of care recommended by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, says that trans people under 18 in most cases should not be undergoing surgery. Those standards also recommend that “patients have lived continuously for at least 12 months in the gender role that is congruent with their gender identity” before surgery.
Affirming care for trans youth looks different than for adults, and it is safe and reversible. However, anti-LGBTQ media and groups have made this into a pervasive and harmful trope to stoke fear about affirming trans kids, which they often call “child abuse.”
JOE ROGAN (HOST): But when it comes to radical, life-altering decisions like changing your gender at 12 years old, like, fuck, are you sure? Are you sure this is the right move? And why can't I talk about this? Like, why is this so goddamn taboo? And the reason why it's so taboo is because they want to bully you into not talking about it, because when you do talk about it, it's exposed that it's not rock solid, that it is strange, and that there is a problem.
The Washington Post has also debunked myths that young trans kids are undergoing surgery. Rather, it wrote that they would speak to experts and mental health professionals and start “a social transition, which might include changing their clothes, hairstyle or pronouns.” It continued, “Laura Edwards-Leeper, a clinical psychologist at Pacific University, said that for” trans kids, “gender-affirming care would not include any kind of medical intervention until they hit puberty. Even then, she said, it’s not an automatic procedure.” Those interventions are reversible and responsive to the young person:
For a 7-year-old, that might mean speaking to experts and potentially helping them through a social transition, which might include changing their clothes, hairstyle or pronouns. At around ages 10 to 13, parents, health professionals and the child might decide to take puberty blockers, which delay the development of secondary sex characteristics, like facial hair or breasts.
Those can be stopped at any time, and puberty continues as it would normally. “It is only irreversible if the adults in the child’s life make it irreversible,” Edwards-Leeper told The Post. “If the adults can stay open to whatever trajectory the child has, then it’s completely reversible.”
In addition, Dr. Jack Turban, whose “research focuses on the mental health of transgender and gender diverse youth,” wrote in Vox that one large study of trans adolescents showed that “only 1.9 percent of those who hit puberty and start puberty blockers decide to stop treatment.” He too noted that these interventions are “completely safe and reversible.”
Despite this, Soh and Rogan fearmongered about trans youth being accepted and repeatedly suggested that they are not actually trans and will grow up to be gay adults, with Soh falsely claiming that “from a scientific perspective, all of the research actually shows that most of these kids, the vast majority of them, are more likely to grow up to be gay in adulthood. They're not going to be transgender.”
Soh’s claims contradict research which has shown that most trans youth kids know who they are and persist in being trans. Furthermore, research shows that transgender youth are best able to succeed when their families accept and affirm their gender identity. This includes being less likely to experience substance abuse, depression, homelessness, and suicidal ideation.
Unfortunately, for the second time in a month, Rogan ignored this critical research, and instead allowed guests to push harmful claims about affirming trans youth.