On Nov. 11, 2017, The Learning Channel (TLC) cable network announced that it was no longer working with reality show performer Derick Dillard after a series of transphobic tweets he directed at 16-year-old transgender TLC reality star Jazz Jennings. Jennings appears in the TLC reality series, I Am Jazz, a show which has run for three season so far.
In his Nov. 9, 2017 tweets, Derick Dillard deliberately misgendered Jennings, writing:
I pity Jazz, for those who take advantage of him in order to promote their agenda, including the parents who allow these kinds of decisions to be made by a child. It’s sad that people would use a juvenile this way. Again, nothing against him, just unfortunate what’s on TV these days.
Previous to his tweets, Dillard appeared in Counting On…, a reality-show spinoff of the show 19 Kids and Counting, another TLC show starring the now Duggar family. The family lost some of their wholesome shine in 2014 when the matriarch voiced a robocall supporting a transphobic bathroom bill in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Their remaining shine rubbed off completely in May 2015 when producers learned that the family’s eldest son, Josh Duggar, had molested four of his sisters as a teen.
In Dillard’s follow-up tweets, he denied bullying Jennings, stating, “I’m expressing my view of what should be treated as reality; if I say I feel like I am Nepali, that doesn’t make me so. Also, has anyone looked into whether a child is capable of making that kind of decision. We can’t vote til we’re 18; our brains aren’t fully developed til around 25.”
Dillard’s tweets are misinformed because, yes, psychologists have looked into whether children are capable of identifying their own gender identity. Uninformed people like Dillard think that trans identity is determined by a child saying something like, “I feel like a girl. I wanna be a girl! I’m a girl!” — something many cisgender boys might say during childhood. But in reality, trans children have a “persistent, consistent, and insistent” gender identity that lasts for years and can be properly identified and treated by a knowledgable healthcare professional.
Furthermore, trans children like Jazz typically don’t start hormones or any other body augmentation until adolescence, after years of identifying as non-cisgender.
Dillard’s tweets followed one he issued on Aug. 2, 2017, in response to a TLC promotional image for I Am Jazz, in which he stated: “What an oxymoron… a ‘reality’ show which follows a non-reality. ‘Transgender’ is a myth. Gender is not fluid; it’s ordained by God.”
In response to his most recent anti-trans outburst, TLC issued the following statement:
We want to let our viewers know that Derick Dillard has not participated in Counting On for months and the network has no plans to feature him in the future. We want to reiterate that Derick’s personal statements do not reflect the views of the network. TLC is proud to share the story of Jazz Jennings and her family and will continue to do so.
In response to the media attention surrounding Dillard and TLC’s statements, Jennings wrote, “In the face of constant ignorance and hatred I prefer to disregard negative opinions and continue moving forward with love.”