Online Anti-LGBTQ Hate Terms Defined: “Troon”
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.
“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 formerly-suspended but now re-platformed @Troonytoons Twitter account) use the term “troon” in their profile names as a signifier that they are focused on producing and circulating anti-trans meme content. The account targets trans people on Twitter by leaking personal information or calling for dogpiling campaigns, and often acts as a laundering service to push material gathered as part of networked cyberstalking campaigns on Kiwi Farms into the broader public. 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.