Jonathan Van Ness highlights dangerous double-standard in Republican attacks on gender-affirming care

Jonathan Van Ness (L) and husband Mark Peacock (R)

Queer Eye star and non-binary icon Jonathan Van Ness has expertly drawn attention to how Republican legislation preventing trans youth from accessing gender-affirming healthcare affects intersex children.

Speaking to Steven Bartlett on his podcast The Diary of a CEO on Monday (19 June), the Queer Eye grooming expert, comedian and genuine hair deity opened up about the “stigma tied up with sexual abuse” and the unfounded conspiracy theory that queer people and drag queens are a threat to children, or “groomers”. 

Van Ness stars alongside Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk and Tan France in Netflix’s heart-warming reality show, which sees the five experts transform the lives of people who need them. Based on the groundbreaking 2003 Bravo show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the Netflix re-imagining doesn’t just focus on helping straight men become better versions of themselves, but focusses on ‘heroes’ of all genders and orientations.

Van Ness has long been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, giving a rousing speech slamming anti-LGBTQ+ legislation during a rally outside the Texas State Capitol in March.

On Bartlett’s podcast, the Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness host highlighted that the same healthcare treatments being banned by Republican lawmakers for trans young people are encouraged for intersex children.

Intersex is an umbrella term for bodies that fall outside the male/female binary and refers to a range of natural variations that affect genitals, hormones, chromosomes or reproductive organs. Some intersex characteristics may be visible at birth, some appear at puberty and others may never become physically apparent. Around 1.7 per cent of the US population is intersex.

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“In a lot of these anti-trans bills for kids, intersex kids are specifically carved out,” Van Ness said.

@pinknews

While appearing on StevenBartlett’s #TheDiaryofACEO podcast, #JonathanVanNess highlighted the harmful exemptions many anti-trans bills make for #intersex children. Such bills seem to encourage the use of hormones and surgeries on intersex kids to reinforce the #genderbinary despite saying children must remain the s3x they’re assigned at birth, which erases the existance of people born intersex. #transkidsarevalid #intersexisvalid #transrightsarehumanrights #translivesmatter🏳️‍⚧️ #fabfive #queereye #uspolitics #queernews #lgbtqpolitics

♬ original sound – PinkNews 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

“So in these bills, it says no genital mutilation, no hormones. Your kid must be the biological sex that they were born.

“Unless they are intersex. And then we must do genital surgery, we must prescribe hormones, we must enforce the binary,” the Queer Eye star continued.

“And if you think I’m being hyperbolic right now, not you or just anyone watching, like, do this research. Look up what intersex is.”

In the US, children with intersex variations often receive so-called ‘normalising’ surgeries as babies or very young children. These treatments have been dubbed medically unnecessary, risky and psychologically scarring by Human Rights Watch, and human rights violations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Health Organisation.

Executive director of interACT, the US’s only intersex-led policy organisation, Erika Lorshbough, has slammed how anti-trans bills impact intersex children, saying: “When lawmakers propose and pass explicit exceptions for surgeons to operate on intersex bodies before the patients themselves can consent, it makes it clear that these bills are about erasing bodily diversity, not protecting anyone.”

LGBTQ+ youth in the US are currently being targeted by a wave of oppressive legislation from Republican-controlled states – with many bills aimed at restricting the lives of trans young people. States including FloridaNorth DakotaNebraskaOklahoma and Missouri have all approved bans on life-saving gender-affirming care – such as hormones and puberty blockers – for trans youth.

Many of these bans cite children’s safety and anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers and pundits in the US have described gender-affirming healthcare as “genital mutilation” or “child sexual mutilation”.

Gender-affirming surgery for under 18s is already not legal in the majority of countries worldwide, including the US and UK.

In 2023 alone, at least 525 state bills have been introduced that attack the LGBTQ+ community, and the Human Rights Campaign has declared a national “state of emergency’ for LGBTQ+ people in the US for the first time in its history.

Queer Eye season seven dropped on 12 May and is currently streaming on Netflix.

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