While many fans of Bravo’s Flipping Out and Jeff Lewis’s show Jeff Lewis Live (on Radio Andy, a channel on Sirius XM) are focused on his split with long-term boyfriend Gage Edwards, the drama of the split and ensuing contentiousness, some took note and were perplexed by a discussion at the top of today’s show.
Actor Doug Budin (Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls) was the guest, and a surprising exchange transpired that had listeners wondering how Jeff Lewis, who is openly gay and has historically expressed support of others’ sexualities and identities, could make certain remarks.
Budin mentioned that three girls from Connecticut who ran track had filed a federal discrimination complaint. It stated that state-wide policy on transgender athletes have led to girls’ top finishes in races, and perhaps, have even led to college scholarships. “This complaint, on behalf of the girls…they’re asking for an investigation into the policy in order to make competitions fair,” said Budin. “This is in Connecticut…and Connecticut – their discrimination policy is [that the schools respect] the gender in which they identify… So that means athletes can compete according to their expressed gender rather than the gender they were born. They’re arguing that transgender athletes are always winning all of these running [competitions]….”
This could have been a moment for Lewis to respond tactfully, and in a way that showed his support for transgender women, but his response could be seen as alarming. Then again, this is Jeff Lewis. History has taught us to expect the unexpected with him, and much of the initial shock value surrounding him has worn off. Nevertheless, when it came to the topic of transgender individuals, his response took many listeners aback.
“Because they’re dudes!” Lewis exclaimed. “They’re dudes. That’s the problem. I think this has merit, I really do. I’m really looking forward to all the negative social media messages I’m going to get this weekend. Obviously, generally, men are stronger than women. Men average 26 pounds of more skeletal muscle mass than women. Women have 40% less upper body strength and 33% less lower body strength. I like my statistics. I truly believe that whatever their gender was at birth…However in some cases, there’s been hormone therapy, right? So if they’ve gone through hormone therapy, maybe that’s a different conversation. But these transgender women are consistently winning track and field events. I think only 17 states allow transgender high school athletes to compete. I do think this absolutely has some merit here.”
“I’m ambivalent about it,” Budin responded, “Because if you go through gender reassignment surgery, then you’re a woman. It’s not on what you were. It’s on what you are now.”
To this, Lewis replied: “Yeah, but some of these people…Look at Caitlyn. She’s a big woman. She’s strong. I don’t know. They have a lot of testosterone. It’s a slippery slope. I don’t know.”
Weeks ago, another Bravo star was subjected to scrutiny and scorn because she is known as an LGBTQ ally: Lisa Vanderpump made an off-handed remark during a Real Housewives of Beverly Hills confessional about costar Erika Jayne “tucking.” Erika Girardi has playfully compared her performing alter ego Erika Jayne to a drag queen in the past and has expressed her love for the art of drag. Therefore, many fans did not detect malice from Vanderpump, whereas others found the comment offensive. Vanderpump apologized in a public statement and expressed her full support of transgender individuals, as well as her regret for making a cavalier statement that upset some viewers.
Months ago, fans of the show Vanderpump Rules were disappointed when cast members didn’t fully acknowledge how Billie Lee, a transgender cast mate, could feel left out of an event labeled “Girls’ Night”.
“I understand not liking Billie Lee’s character or her personality,” said one Vanderpump viewer, “But why not have a thorough conversation with her – as [cast mate] Ariana Madix did – acknowledging an understanding of her feelings and properly clarifying the misunderstanding. The fact that they did not come across as empathetic or sympathetic to that is what turned me off.”
What are your thoughts on how Jeff Lewis handled today’s topic on his radio show? Do you think he should have steered the conversation in another direction to avoid potential criticism and controversy, or do you appreciate how he freely expresses his opinions at the risk of backlash?
If there is one thing I’ve learned from the past year of watching reality TV shows, it is that the LGBTQ community has a lot of supporters and people who consider themselves a part of this community, yet there is still a long way to go when it comes to respecting the “T” in LGBTQ.