The death of talk show host Jerry Springer has brought back painful memories for many transgender people, amid a rapidly rising tide of anti-trans legislation in Republican-led states.
Springer died Thursday at the age of 79, a family spokesperson told TMZ. The former politician and comedian hosted the controversial talk show Jerry Springer for almost three decades, during which the show became known for featuring violence, nudity, and profanity.
The show was particularly notorious for its exploitative treatment of trans women, especially trans women of color—which is ironic, considering that his family has asked fans to commit an act of kindness to honor him, rather than send flowers. Jerry Springer regularly featured segments that dehumanized trans women, referred to them by slurs, and portrayed them as deceptive.
Trans women, as well as allies, spoke out on Twitter after Springer’s death was announced about how much he and his treatment of trans people affected their sense of self worth. They pointed out that his show was often some of the only trans representation they saw in popular culture when they were younger.
Springer’s show was canceled in 2018, but it faced regular criticisms for transphobia before that. He was vocal in his support for the LGBTQ community, but on the show, things looked a little different.
Although Springer had pushed back on the accusations of transphobia, his show and its audience always mocked trans people when they appeared as guests, including in the offensively named segment “Trannies Twerk It Out.” Presenting one community as a joke stood in stark contrast to the rest of his show, online magazine Queerty pointed out.
“The laughter, the pointing, the hooting and hollering—how can this be perceived as supporting the transgender community?” Queerty editor Dan Tracer wrote in 2015.
Springer’s death comes amid a wave of state-level anti-trans legislation that only seems to be picking up speed. The Republican-led measures range from banning trans people from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender to banning gender-affirming care for minors and even letting state officials take trans teens away from guardians who give them such care.
Just Wednesday, Montana House Republicans voted to censure Zooey Zephyr, the state’s only trans lawmaker, after she gave a fiery speech warning them that banning gender-affirming care would increase suicide among trans minors.