Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness opens up about the ‘shame and stigma’ of sexual abuse

Queer Eye star and activist Jonathan van Ness has spoken about previous drug addictions, sex work, his HIV diagnosis and sexual abuse.

When one thinks of Van Ness, the fiercely optimistic grooming expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye, an image made up of non-binary joy and blisteringly funny catchphrases is probably what springs to mind.

That’s not all there is to the star, though. Aside from using his voice to speak up for marginalised trans lives, the HIV-positive television personality has consistently been open about the struggles that have shaped his life, including sexual abuse and drug addiction.

In an interview with Steven Bartlett on his podcast The Diary of a CEO, Van Ness opened up about the less-than-picture-perfect aspects of his past.

“There’s such an insistence of not talking about it, don’t let anyone find out,” he said. “And I understand that, because you just don’t want people to find out – whether that’s bringing shame on the Church, or bringing shame on why no one prevented it. I think we all wanted to just get through it, and there’s so much stigma tied up with sexual abuse.”

Van Ness went on to say that the current narrative that queer people and drag queens are “groomers” is completely unfounded.

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“It’s part of what makes me so angry when we think about people saying that trans people are groomers… this idea that queer people are groomers. There is so much sexual abuse in churches, in rural communities, and when you look at the statistics, most often, it’s a man that you know… it’s not random queer people.

The rise of transphobic rhetoric across the globe came under his microscope too.

“I see so much transphobic garbage all over the place'” he said. “People really think that there are little kids going to school as a boy and coming home as a girl… this is really serious.”

Van Ness went on to highlight how Republican politicians are weaponising the debate around trans rights as a means of introducing anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation in the US.

“The issue that [Republican politicians] use, is bathrooms and trans rights… they were throwing everything at the wall. Abortion? No, that’s not going well, because most people support the right to an abortion. Gay marriage isn’t really a huge thing any more, either, because most people support gay marriage.

“But when they threw trans rights at the wall, when they threw ‘biological males’ competing against, robbing, your sweet, pretty little white girl of her hard-earned sporting opportunities, that stuck. That stuck hard-core. That got people circling the wagons, honey.”

The full episode of The Diary of a CEO is available now on streaming platforms.

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