Guide to Anti-LGBTQ Online Hate and Disinformation
Anti-LGBTQ hate speech, harassment, and disinformation — ranging from overt bigotry to dog whistles — cause real harm to LGBTQ people and to society as a whole. GLAAD continues to document and monitor an alarming rise in such content and behavior across the major social media platforms. The GLAAD Guide to Anti-LGBTQ Online Hate and Disinformation is an ongoing project to identify some of the most prevalent and egregious terms, tropes, and concepts that are used to harass, attack, and spread malicious misinformation about LGBTQ people on social media. We urge social media companies to use this guide as an authoritative resource for identifying and understanding anti-LGBTQ content, especially as they continue to develop and enforce their hate speech and harassment policies.
This is not an exhaustive list. GLAAD will update this guide on an ongoing basis. As much as possible, the entries below have been deeply researched to include citations pointing to fact-checking sites, media coverage, and other civil society organizations.
Click the terms below to jump to their definitions.
The examples below include hateful terms, phrases and imagery.
This hate-driven conspiracy theory emerged in early 2017 and is still widespread on YouTube. It falsely asserts that certain celebrities — from Madonna to Mike Tyson to Melania Trump — are transgender and then “investigates” by offering fake pseudo-scientific “evidence.” This is a notable example of how anti-LGBTQ hate actually impacts everyone — the targets of the harassment are cisgender celebrities. Content related to this form of anti-transgender hate runs rampant across all social media platforms, from a Pinterest board with 2.64K followers, to crowd-sourced Facebook groups, to hashtagged tweets (like this one of Melania Trump) and hashtagged Instagram posts (like this vicious attack on Vice President Kamala Harris). The concept is especially widespread on YouTube. Posted by the YouTube account, “Wake Up Before Christ Comes,” the 27-minute video entitled, “TRANSVESTIGATION of MADONNA — Undeniable PROOF!!! ‘SHE’ is a MAN!” offers a faux-scientific analysis of the pop star’s anatomy which serves as a vehicle for a lengthy diatribe of dehumanizing anti-trans tropes and rhetoric. It should go without saying but we will say it: People should not be subjected to dehumanizing attacks on their bodies and identities.
This misguided concept claims that some trans and/or non-binary people are not really trans, but are merely following modern “trends” of gender exploration for social or online capital. “Transtrending” ties to the conspiracy theories of “gender ideology” and “social contagion” which falsely states that the trans experience is learned, a choice, and is consciously adopted from others, rather than an innate identity. This is another concept that attacks transgender people for being who they are. Like “transvestigations” above, this concept has not yet been widely researched and debunked by major fact checking sites (though a 2017 Quartz article on alt-right neologisms offers a history of its transphobic origins on Reddit.) In fact, a Google search (in October 2020) surfaces a “featured snippet” result from an LGBT site that gives a confusing impression without conveying the delegitimizing origins of the term (see screenshot; note that the gender.wikia.org definition accurately describes the term as derogatory, and also note that there are deeper layers of discussion of the concept within the trans community itself). To further understand the dehumanizing usage of the term, see The Christian Institute’s March 2020 article (which comes up as item number four in a Google News search on March 25, 2021), “Teenagers and the Trans Contagion,” which urges readers to “think carefully about how to reach the victims, and would-be victims, of the contagious transgender culture.” Item number three on Google News search offers a similar sentiment from The Daily Mail, with the lead sentence: “Schools are facing a ‘transtrender problem’ with pupils identifying as transgender to be cool and rebellious, a former top headmistress said yesterday.” It is troubling, to say the least, to see such an example of unexamined hate appearing at this level in a mainstream news context. This is also another example of how hate and misinformation are so often entwined together in a given meme or concept.
David Futrelle’s well-known online misogyny tracking site, We Hunted The Mammoth describes this multi-purpose right-wing troll invention as having emerged in 2016 and offers this summary of its hateful combination of homophobia and anti-Semitism: “Ostensibly, ‘globohomo’ is short for ‘global homogenization,’ an alleged vast conspiracy to destroy ‘traditional’ culture and values and replace them with a sort of global (naturally) corporate uniculture. But it’s rarely used in this way, at least not exactly. For those who’ve seized upon the term, ‘globo’ means ‘globalist’ and therefore Jews; while ‘homo’ (the suffix) means, well, ‘homo’ (the slur). (Some, evidently worried that ‘globohomo’ isn’t gay-sounding enough, add ‘gayplex’ to it — ‘globohomogayplex.’).” This specific meme pictured above was posted on Instagram and promotes a vicious extremist Telegram account called Rednecks.
This fake acronym began circulating as a malignant meme in 2016 and 2017, and had a fresh resurgence in 2020. It promotes the lie that the LGBTQ community is adding a letter “P,” for “pedosexual,” to the LGBT acronym. Researchers in the field of online extremism have identified this as an example of an anti-LGBT “PsyOps” campaign intended to harm the LGBT community.A 2020 Reuters “Fact Check” reports: “The LGBTQ community does not condone ‘pedosexuals’ and no groups have shared that they do. These claims are false.” A 2020 USA Today “Fact Check” also notes: “The assertion that the LGBTQ community condones or supports pedophilia is not only false, but rooted in a history of bigotry.” GLAAD anecdotally reported two LGBTP memes to Facebook (in May and July 2020) and they were removed, but there is currently no blanket rule against them despite the fact that they violate Community Guidelines.
Another deliberate attempt to conflate the LGBTQ community with pedophilia is the ‘CloverGender’ meme, which originated on 4chan in 2017. One aspect of these hate-driven “PsyOps” campaigns is the creation of fake social media accounts in which supposed “clovergenders” proclaim their identity as part of the LGBT community to thereby damage the community with the assertion, note the additional layer of psychological manipulation above in the made-up argument distinguishing this identity from pedophilia. Revived in 2020, these memes continue to circulate on social media despite being debunked by Snopes; USA Today (“Fact check: ‘Clovergender’ isn’t part of the LGBTQ community”); and Reuters (“Fact check: ‘Clovergender’ is an alt-right hoax”). As Reuters summarizes: “Posts on social media claim that people identifying as ‘Clovergender’ are attempting to justify pedophilia. This damaging claim stems from an alt-right hoax intended to slur members of the LGBT community.”
Launched to prominence in February 2021 by TikTok user Kyle Royce, this particular transphobic trope and corresponding hashtag was quickly taken up by anti-trans social media users. Disingenuously premised on a logical fallacy, the “Super Straight” meme offers a combination of whataboutism and false equivalency. A 2021 them article offers context and a partial transcription of the video: “Royce said he had ‘made a new sexuality’ because he was tired of being called transphobic for not wanting to date trans women. ‘Now, I’m super straight,’ he continued. ‘I only date the opposite gender, women, that are born women. So you can’t say I’m transphobic now because that is just my sexuality.’”Here the speaker asserts that this “identity” is a mere neutral (non-hateful) orientation, equivalent to LGBTQ identities and deserving of similar recognition and respect—and further, that the assertion is not an example of transphobia but simply an earnest expression of self. Like “Straight Pride” (and other hate-driven ideologies including “White Power”) these kinds of arguments are built on a feigned ignorance of real-world social discrimination against marginalized groups and are a well-documented strategy of right-wing extremists for sowing discord and trolling the left. Like the LGBTP campaign, Super Straight has continued to evolve as a vehicle for anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ conduct and content — the March 31, 2021 tweet above features the “Super Straight flag” and highjacks the Transgender Day of Visibility hashtag to troll trans people and allies. A March 8 Insider article offers further in-depth analysis. Both TikTok and Reddit have swiftly responded to the emergence of the trend. Reddit shut down the r/superstraight subreddit and TikTok deplatformed Royce and shadow-banned the hashtag. Dozens of Super Straight accounts remain active across various platforms.
“Troon” is a derogatory term, most often used as a slur for transgender women. A portmanteau of “trans” and “goon,” it implies that trans women are men, their assigned gender at birth. According to Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Alejandra Caraballo, the term first appeared on the Something Awful internet forum where users referred to themselves as “goons.” This usage became far more targeted and derisive on Kiwi Farms, a notorious anti-trans online forum known for mass-organized stalking, doxxing, stealing, and harassment, including prompting the suicides of three trans people targeted by members. The forum singled out trans and neurodivergent people as part of its harassment campaigns, which in some cases led to dangerous cases of “swatting,” where members would make false calls to law enforcement, who would show up armed to victims’ homes. (In September 2022, Cloudflare blocked the site, which signaled to other internet infrastructure providers that Kiwi Farms was a liability.) The term has reached even broader use in early 2023 as social media accounts that target trans people (such as the now-suspended @Troonytoons Twitter account) use the term “troon” in their profile names as a signifier that they are focused on producing anti-trans meme content. They target trans people on Twitter by leaking personal information or calling for dogpiling campaigns, and often act as a laundering service to push material gathered as part of networked cyberstalking campaigns on Kiwi Farms into the broader public.
The current usage of “transgenderism” as a term arises from anti-trans extremists and is crafted to delegitimize and dehumanize trans people by implying that being trans is an ideology rather than an identity. In her March 2023 essay, On the Right’s Call to “Eradicate Transgenderism” (It Means Exactly What You Think It Means) Parker Molloy explains: “A reminder that words like ‘transgenderism’ and ‘gender ideology’ are almost exclusively used by anti-trans activists to obscure the fact that trans people are simply people who just happen to be trans. It’s not a belief system.” While the anti-trans usage of the term has been in place for some years it was notably weaponized in a vicious March 2023 speech by right-wing extremist Michael Knowles at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, in which Knowles made the inflammatory pronouncement that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” Knowles posted versions of the speech on YouTube, as well as variations of the same rhetoric on his other social media accounts, while disingenuously asserting that his genocidal phrasing was not genocidal.From a social media strategy standpoint, the term has served Knowles and other far-right media figures to disingenuously evade the hate speech and harassment policies of the platforms — which prohibit speech targeting people with hate on the basis of protected characteristics, such as gender identity, (while speech targeting ideologies is allowed). Anti-trans figures and groups continue to utilize the term online and offline as a a dog whistle expressing contempt and hatred of transgender people.
“LGBTS” or “LGBTQIAS”
This anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory falsely proclaims that the LGBTQ community has recognized “S,” standing for “Satanist” as part of the umbrella term. While the harmful trope of linking homosexuality to “evil” has existed for centuries, this online claim emerged in a September 2022 episode of “The Liz Wheeler Show,” on YouTube. Wheeler also made the claim during a longer segment of her show, in which she denounced the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would provide U.S. federal legal protection for same-sex and interracial marriages. An Associated Press fact check confirmed in September 2022 that the claim was false. YouTube subsequently demonetized Wheeler’s channel.Besides being used as a provocative hate-driven trope to generate online engagement for profit, “LGBTS” aims to incite a moral, religious panic and to foster fear of LGBTQ people. Associating groups of people with demonic or other subhuman figures is a known method of dehumanization, which is prohibited by the hate speech policies of the major social media platforms. Like “LGBTP” (the “P” supposedly standing for pedophile”), the practice of falsely asserting the addition of letters to the LGBTQ acronym is a well-worn anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation strategy.
Like “LGBTP” and “LGBTS,” “groomer” is another anti-LGBTQ hate term that aims to characterize LGBTQ people as threats to children, promoting an age-old moral panic. In March 2020, a 4chan thread urged trolls to reply to tweets from LGBTQ people with “OK groomer,” as a play on the “OK boomer” meme, Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Alejandra Caraballo writes. A variety of prominent alt-right and anti-LGBTQ accounts, including Jack Posobiec, James Lindsay, Libs of TikTok, and Ben Shapiro, began popularizing the “groomer” trope. In July 2022 multiple platforms issued public statements proclaiming that use of the term as an anti-LGBTQ slur was in violation of their hate speech policies. As a 2023 Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) Global report summarizes: “Around the world today, the use of the term ‘groomer’ is used to justify hate, discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ+ community. In the US particularly, the use of this language, along with conspiratorial thinking around queer people, has led to legislation preventing the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools and preventing trans children from accessing gender affirming healthcare, and has motivated attacks on LGBTQ+ individuals.”Right-wing extremists have long propagated the term, but in recent years, it has become a mainstream conservative talking point and has been weaponized for political power by politicians such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ron DeSantis. ISD further explains: “Part of the success of this mainstreaming lies in the ability of fringe actors to manipulate the general public’s lack of knowledge of queer culture and particularly their insensitivity to the plight of trans people. This has been coupled with the most potent fear — that of people harming children, which has been used to justify hatred and irrationality for centuries.”
These are just a few examples of anti-LGBTQ online hate and disinformation. Every term and concept should be evaluated in context. For instance, LGBTQ people and allies may use hashtags with hate terms as counterspeech, or slurs such as “tranny” or “dyke” may be used self-referentially to reclaim them. This guide will be updated on an ongoing basis. Please see the latest GLAAD Social Media Safety Index report for a deeper exploration of the current social media landscape for LGBTQ people, including GLAAD’s recommendations and thought leadership in the field.
How to Report Anti-LGBTQ Online Hate Speech and Harassment
Every major social media platform has policies which prohibit hate and harassment on the basis of protected characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity. To learn how to report potentially violative content, check out GLAAD’s LGBTQ Digital Safety Guide, which includes basic tips on helping our community be more safe online.
A Note of Acknowledgement
GLAAD is grateful to the many organizations and individuals doing this important work. We especially want to acknowledge the team at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center and the ADL’s Hate On Display™: Hate Symbols Database, which has served as a model for this project.
About the GLAAD Social Media Safety Program
As the leading national LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD is working every day to hold tech companies and social media platforms accountable, and to secure safe online spaces for LGBTQ people. GLAAD’s Social Media Safety program actively researches, monitors and reports on a variety of issues facing LGBTQ social media users — with a focus on safety, privacy and expression — advocating for solutions in numerous realms: online hate and harassment, AI bias, polarizing algorithms, data privacy, and more. The annual Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) provides recommendations for the industry at large and reports on LGBTQ user safety across the five major social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. Learn more by reading the annual GLAAD Social Media Safety Index & Platform Scorecard.