Jon Stewart returned to classic form in the second season premiere of The Problem With Jon Stewart by calling out Leslie Rutledge.
The season 2 premiere takes a look at “The War Over Gender.” I did not ask, want, or choose to be transgender but at the end of the day, all I want to do is just live my life! As Stewart takes at look at what’s happening among conservatives, he uses the moment to apologize for his own history in telling “shitty and reductive jokes” about transgender people. It’s an apology that’s long overdue. From here we get into a conversation about what is a woman and Stewart does what he does best: draw from history, including biblical texts. Funny enough, Dr. Tim B. Bigdeli, a geneticist, is in the audience and answers Stewart’s questions as he rightfully calls out the likes of Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, etc.
He cuts to the chase:
“The problem with gender and sex or both: it turns out that none of this shit is simple. We didn’t just ask geneticists. We asked endocrinologists and a few psychologists, a gynecologist, and they all said the same thing. Intersex, trans, nonbinary, and all the different variations on gender-future-sex-love-sounds continuum are normal human variation and whatever discomfort we may feel in the changing norms of reality, myself included, it is no match for the discomfort and fear felt by those seeking acceptance. Yet for some reason, anti-trans legislation increased over 800% since 2018. 800%!
Stewart than dives into some of this year’s anti-trans legislation and a history of transgender athletes. He even points out that a person’s belief will not be backed up by the data. It’s enough that the show pulls up a clip where someone says “facts don’t care about your feelings.” Stewart brings on a panel consisting of Keisha Michaels, Debi Jackson, Chase Strangio, and Dr. Joshua Safer. They discuss the current culture war on gender-affirming care. In the case of the two parents, they discuss their experiences of having trans children. One of them came from a conservative background.
When it comes to gender-affirming care, there are two transitions that take place: social and medical. Social is basically name, hair, wardrobe, etc. Medical is hormones, surgery, etc. When parents affirm their children, they live happier lives. They don’t talk about being depressed all the time. What’s happening in numerous states right now are that politicians want to take the rights away from parents that want to give their children life-saving care. These are the same states that didn’t want people masking up to fight Covid-19. The ACLU is fighting Arkansas and the other states that are taking transgender rights away. It’s at this point where Stewart brings in the Arkansas attorney general.
In the interview, Stewart rightfully calls out Leslie Rutledge, the current Attorney General of Arkansas. Thankfully, Rutledge is failing–to an extent–when it comes to her battle against transgender rights in Arkansas. Despite a gubernatorial veto, Arkansas became the first in the nation to ban transgender care for minors. This even includes when minors have parental consent! While Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed this ban, the legislature stupidly overrode him. Interestingly enough, Hutchinson’s veto came days after banning transgender athletes. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 was one of the worst years on record for anti-trans laws. In any event, the ACLU was among the parties that sued Arkansas and the ban is being blocked from enforcement.
Prior to the passage of the SAFE act, there were 0 Arkansans who had the surgery. The AG did not have this information and Stewart gave her the data. All the major medical organizations recommend a set of guidelines for transgender care and the state of Arkansas would rather go against medical professionals. Rutledge’s answer is bullshit. She cites the one anti-trans doctor because she can. Furthermore, she just gives more bullshit figures from anti-trans doctors rather than medical doctors that know what they’re talking about. She cannot name any organization off the top of her head. And again, the comedian names the leading orgs that know what they’re doing. The further that Jon gets into this interview with Rutledge, the AG keeps digging herself into a bigger hole. Stewart even points out that parents have lost children to suicide because they couldn’t get the care that they needed!
Rutledge doesn’t know what she’s talking about when discussing the suicide rate in the trans community. Thankfully, Jon calls her out on the bullshit. It’s high because trans people live in areas where they don’t have the support they need. It’s high because of the rejection by families, etc. Jon Stewart continually calls her out: “The care and guidelines for transgender children seem a lot more considered and thought out than the law preventing from getting it where you can’t even cite the medical organization that agrees with you.” I give Jon Stewart a lot of credit for not walking out on Rutledge because she just keeps repeating the same anti-trans bullshit over and over.
Where was this Jon Stewart last year? In case you forgot, he was asked about his thoughts on Dave Chappelle’s most recent transphobic comedy special. He said Chappelle’s intent didn’t matter and my own feelings soured when it came to the former host of The Daily Show. Chappelle was on stage to honor Stewart when he received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Will Jon Stewart distance himself from Chappelle or even apologize for his comments? To be fair, I’m glad that he apologized for his own transphobic jokes. Even though he let me down last year in one of the worst ways possible, I feel like I can be a fan of him again. It’s not easy to watch a comedian when they’re defending transphobic humor, which isn’t funny and let’s be honest, there’s no defense for such material.
Interviews like this one that are a reminder of how good that Jon Stewart can be. When he is on it, you do not want to be sitting across from him in the chair. Remember, there was a while where people were looking to The Daily Show as a serious program for news rather than satirical comedy.
The following is an excerpt from the interview on The Problem with Jon Stewart:
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