Speed Reads


John Oliver attempts to demystify youth transgender rights for hesitant allies and curious skeptics

The main topic on Sunday's Last Week Tonight was transgender rights, mostly for children and teens. "We actually first talked about this seven years ago," John Oliver noted, "and the good news is that since then, more people do seem comfortable coming out as trans and gender nonconforming." On the other hand, "as you have undoubtedly noticed, in the past few years, some on the right have truly lost their minds about trans rights," he said, setting some parameters. 

"This year alone, over 100 anti-trans bills have been introduced in statehouses, and 12 states have signed or enacted them," Oliver said. "Frustratingly, there are many on the left who seem at best reluctant to engage on this issue and at worst outright hostile to it, either complaining about 'pronoun police' or arguing that this issue will cost Democrats elections," he said, but ignoring the Republicans "talking about trans rights nonstop" to demagogue the issue only allows them "to have real, calamitous impact on people's lives."

Before tackling the latest attacks on trans rights, Oliver explained he would be "taking the arguments behind a lot of these anti-trans bills seriously, because of what they're doing, but not sincerely, because so often they seem to be based more on political calculation than what is actually happening."

Oliver discussed trans sports bans — "it is pretty remarkable that a trans athlete could theoretically compete in the Olympics but not in South Dakota under-12 soccer" — and why more kids seem to be coming out as transgender now. "Watching the conversation around this, it is hard not to feel like, to the extent that there is any 'social contagion' here, it is among adults who've whipped themselves into such a frenzy, that they can find themselves repeating some humiliating nonsense." He mocked the state officials who actually believe there are students who identify as cats and demand litter boxes in school classrooms.

Finally, Oliver tried to demystify "maybe the biggest and most dangerous area of ignorance" surrounding transgender people, "the concept of gender-affirming care." He marshaled statistics and stories, but said the missing ingredient in the discussion is often joy. "When supported, trans kids can experience full, vibrant lives, because trans people are not by default unhappier or more prone to suffering than anyone else," Oliver said. "That is something that we are putting on them." (Note: Oliver uses some incidental NSFW language.)