Online Anti-LGBTQ Hate Terms Defined: “Transvestigation”
This entry is part of the GLAAD Guide to Anti-LGBTQ Online Hate and Disinformation, 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. Learn more here.
The example below includes a hateful term, 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 transphobic hate actually impacts everyone — the targets of the harassment are cis celebrities. Content related to this form of anti-transgender hate runs rampant across all social media platforms, from crowd-sourced Facebook groups to tweets (like this one of Jennifer Aniston) to YouTube compilations. The trope is especially widespread on YouTube. For example, the now private, 27-minute video entitled, “TRANSVESTIGATION of MADONNA — Undeniable PROOF!!! ‘SHE’ is a MAN!” constructs this conspiracy theory with a framing asserting that Madonna’s body-type is that of someone assigned male at birth. The video 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 bullied and harassed with dehumanizing attacks on their bodies and identities. Explore more via GLAAD’s Guide to Anti-LGBTQ Online Hate and Disinformation.
This is just one example 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.