December 11, 2023

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The self-harm incident & anti-LGBTQ Ted Cruz

By Alex Paterson & Alyssa Tirrell | WASHINGTON – Spotify podcast host Joe Rogan and anti-trans pundit Matt Walsh spread extreme misinformation about trans people on the November 7 edition of The Joe Rogan Experience, with Rogan falsely claiming that being trans is a “mental health issue,” “a weird kink,” and a “cult-like mentality.” Rogan’s bigoted rhetoric appears to violate Spotify’s platform rules, which prohibit “dehumanizing statements about a person or group” based on gender identity.

Walsh is a Daily Wire pundit who has committed himself to an anti-trans crusade. He recently claimed to be “building a nationwide organized movement” to target hospitals and medical providers after helping to drive harassment against Boston Children’s Hospital. Walsh continued to target the hospital after it reported threats against doctors and staff, and the facility later received more than one bomb threat.

Rogan has faced widespread backlash for using his Spotify podcast to spread bigotrymedical misinformation, and right-wing falsehoods. Anti-trans hate is also a central pillar of Rogan’s show. He has promoted the online hoax that students are using litter boxes in school restrooms — later admitting that “it doesn’t seem like there was any proof” of his bogus story — and repeatedly suggested that social acceptance of trans people is a sign of “civilizations collapsing.” But Spotify has determined that its platform rules do not prohibit the hate and misinformation spread on The Joe Rogan Experience.

Walsh and Rogan’s anti-trans fearmongering is in direct contrast to research showing that many trans people are aware of their gender identities at a young age. The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other major medical organizations overwhelmingly support access to gender-affirming care, which studies show dramatically reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression for people who experience gender dysphoria.

Walsh asserted that all trans people’s gender identities are invalid and Rogan claimed that being trans is a “mental condition” that opens “the door to all this chaos”

Throughout the interview, Rogan and Walsh spread extreme rhetoric about trans people. The two misgendered, deadnamed, or attacked several trans people, including Fox News contributor Caitlyn Jenner, TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney, MMA fighter Fallon Fox, the daughter of retired NBA player Dwayne Wade, gynecologist and surgeon Dr. Marci Bowers, and U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Rachel Levine.    

At the beginning of the interview, Walsh claimed that trans people can be broken down into categories “by age” and then proceeded to deny the validity of each category. He falsely claimed that “very young children” cannot be trans “because no child even knows what that is, so you have to suggest that to them.” Walsh also claimed that the gender identity of trans adults “is a fetish” and pushed the anti-trans social contagion myth, which has been widely propagated by anti-trans author and former Rogan guest Abigail Shrier.

Rogan agreed with Walsh’s comments and added that being trans has “always been a psychological condition. It’s always been known as being like a psychiatric condition, like it’s a mental health issue.” He also claimed that by accepting trans people, “we’re opening the door to all this chaos.”

The claim that being trans is itself a mental health issue or an expression of self-harm is part of a broader right-wing effort to falsely frame gender- affirming care as enabling and damaging rather than lifesaving. This trend has gained traction in recent months from right-wing media, including on Walsh’s own show.

From the November 7, 2022, edition of Spotify’s The Joe Rogan Experience

MATT WALSH (DAILY WIRE PUNDIT): So in general, like there are different categories of people who transition. And we kind of talk about them like they’re all the same, but they’re not. And you can kind of break it down by age, like there’s the very young children — a five-year-old. And we hear that, “Oh, my five-year-old is trans.” That’s 1,000% the parent just deciding they’re going to do that because no child even knows what that is, so you have to suggest that to them. Then you have the adolescent girls. And, you know, Abigail Shrier has written about this in her great book. And that’s the social contagion. They pick it up from society. But then there’s the older men who are adults and decide one day that they’re women. And for so many of them, this is a fetish. I mean, this is like the thing we’re not allowed to say or acknowledge. But it’s totally true that for most of these older men who decide that I’m a woman, it’s a fetish. It’s autogynephilia. 


WALSH: They’re enchanted by the idea of themselves as women. And so now, now we have to participate in your fetish? Like you, you get off on the idea of being seen as a woman, and I have to be a participant in that? It’s really degrading to all of us, you know, that we’re all being forced into this.

ROGAN: Well, it’s always been a psychological condition. It’s always been known as being like a psychiatric condition, like it’s a mental health issue. 

WALSH: Right.

ROGAN: And now it’s being accepted as a gender identity issue, where it was always just like a weird kink that people had. And now you’re — again, regardless whether or not this person’s a sex offender, registered sex offender, repeated sex offender, you have to accept this. Otherwise you’re a bigot. It’s just this rigid adherence to ideology is so cult-like. It’s so fucking Handmaid’s Tale. It’s so wild that people are just wholesale adopting this. And this is not to deny that there’s people that are trans. I’ve met people that are trans. It exists in nature. I mean, occasionally guys will shoot a buck and they’ll find out that it’s actually a female with antlers. Nature’s weird, right? I think nature does put people, make humans, for whatever reason, that really feel like they should have been born a female or should have been born a male. But that’s not all of what’s happening. And in our desire to be compassionate and to have care for these people and to love these people and respect these people, we’re opening the door to all this chaos.

Rogan and Walsh equated being transgender to having anorexia and a “cult-like mentality”  

Walsh compared being trans to being mentally ill, specifically having anorexia, saying, “If a young woman goes to the doctor and she’s 90 pounds and she says, ‘I feel like I’m a 300-pound, you know, fat ass,’ the doctors are not going to affirm that.” 

Rogan agreed with Walsh’ assessment and then added that being trans is a “cult-like mentality.”

Responding to Rogan’s claim that gender identity is an “ideology” that doesn’t “fit with logic or reality,” Walsh suggested that trans people are part of a conspiracy to attack “truth” and “the reality of the self.” “Once you do that, if you’re successful on a societal level, then it’s sort of like the sky’s limit,” the Daily Wire host said.

From the November 7, 2022, edition of Spotify’s The Joe Rogan Experience

MATT WALSH (DAILY WIRE PUNDIT): But self-perception is not always reality. In most other contexts, we recognize that a person can have a self-perception that just is not true, is just inaccurate. I mean, you could walk down the street in any city and find drug-addled homeless people talking to themselves. And if you were to ask them about themselves, you’re going to find they’re going to say a lot of things that just don’t line up with reality. And in every other context, we’re allowed to acknowledge that, even in medical context. I mean, someone who has body dysmorphia in the form of anorexia, you know, a young woman goes to the doctors and she’s 90 pounds and she says, “I feel like I’m a 300-pound, you know, fat ass.” 


WALSH: The doctors are not going to affirm that and say, “Well, if that’s how you feel, fatness is on a spectrum.” I mean, they’re not going to give her diet pills, they’re going to —

ROGAN: But why gender? Like, why is gender this ideological battleground? Like, how the fuck did that become this thing where it’s encouraging like this cult-like mentality where you can, even when things are clearly odd, think clearly, clearly, don’t make any sense, they don’t fit with logic or reality, you have to adhere to whatever this ideology is, promoting?

WALSH: I think it’s — I mean, at a most basic level, I think that this is, like I said, an attack on truth. And this is, you know, if you want to, if your project is kind of, is relativism and you want to get rid of the objective ideas of truth, what are you going to go after? I mean, if you can go after someone’s really fundamental understanding of themselves, it’s not just that they’re attacking reality, it’s like they’re attacking the reality of the self. And so they’re depriving a person of the ability to understand their own — themselves. And once you do that, if you’re successful on a societal level, then it’s sort of like the sky’s limit, you can go anywhere from there.

Walsh spread false claims about the number of trans youth who have received gender-affirming health care 

Walsh also fearmongered about the number of trans youth who have accessed gender-affirming health care, claiming that “millions” of young people have received hormone blockers. 

Walsh is likely vastly overstating this number. According to a Reuters report, “At least 14,726 minors started hormone treatment with a prior gender dysphoria diagnosis from 2017 through 2021,” and less than 5,000 began taking puberty blockers during that time.

Shortly after Walsh made this claim, Rogan’s podcast producer Jamie Vernon fact-checked it and displayed a page that showed that less than 1,000 trans youth receive puberty blockers in a year. Walsh denied the report, saying, “You know, who are you going to trust when they’re telling you the numbers?“  

From the November 7, 2022, edition of Spotify’s The Joe Rogan Experience

JOE ROGAN (HOST): How many people have had this done? 

MATT WALSH (DAILY WIRE PUNDIT): Depends on what? I don’t think we have exact numbers, but if we’re talking about the drugs it’s, I mean, millions.  

ROGAN: Do you — talking about human hormone blockers? 

WALSH: Yeah.

ROGAN: Millions of kids have been on hormone blockers. Really?

WALSH: I’m sure someone is going to fact-check me on that. But my guess is that we’re into the millions now at this point. Yeah, that would be my guess. I can say for double mastectomy is the most — I read a report recently that there were over a thousand done between 2016 and 2019. And when you compare that to how many were done between, you know, 2008 and 2015, it’s just, it’s a massive increase. And over a thousand girls had double mastectomy — gender-affirming double mastectomies in that time frame. But that’s — 

ROGAN: When you see girls, you’re talking about prepubescent?

WALSH: Right. Minors. And that’s just up until 2019. And then we know that there’s been this exponential increase with all this stuff year-over-year. So it’s a lot. It’s too many. You know, one — having this happen to one kid is way too many. It’s a lot more than one.  

ROGAN: Yeah. Look, if you’re an adult and you want to do that and you understand who you are and what you are and this is how you feel you should progress. You’re an adult. This is a free country. You should be able to do whatever you want. But when you’re talking about doing that to children, the fact that so many people are on board and so many people are angry if you — like, people are going to be angry at us that we’re having these conversations. 

WALSH: Yeah, they will be. And I also — I actually think that this shouldn’t be happening to —

JAMIE VERNON (PRODUCER): It’s a very small number, if that’s right. 

ROGAN: It says over the last five years, there were at least 4,780 adolescents who started puberty blockers and had a prior gender dysphoria diagnosis. 

VERNON: Yeah, it says it’s kind of undercounted but that’s —

ROGAN: That would be a big undercount

VERNON: Less than 1,000 people a year. 

ROGAN: Yeah. 

WALSH: Yeah. I mean, I would guess, you know, hundreds of thousands at this point, but I could be wrong.

ROGAN: A million sounds great. 

WALSH: Yeah, I could be wrong. Yeah. Media Matters will have fun with that clip. “Matt Walsh claims it does — ” But part of the problem though is that we don’t – It’s very hard to get numbers on any of this stuff and, you know, who are you going to trust when they’re telling you the numbers? So that’s why that’s one of the issues with all of this. 


The preceding article was previously published by Media Matter for America and is republished by permission.