Brandwatch and Ditch the Label joined forces to analyze 10 million online posts over a 3½ year period to explore online transphobia.

We uncovered 1.5 million transphobic comments amid the wider conversation around trans people.

Content and trigger warning: Please be aware that in places the data presented in this infographic is uncensored. We recommend getting parental advice before exploring this infographic if you’re younger than 16. This analysis touches on topics including transphobia, racism, mentions of sexual assault, misogyny and misogynoir.

This report does not make for light reading as it uncovers the shocking and inhumane ways in which transgender people are targeted, harassed, and abused on digital platforms.

The online posts we uncovered, some of which have been shared thousands of times, range in severity from transphobic attitudes through to genocide and violence; you can see these classified on Ditch the Label’s Pyramid of Transphobia. Using the largest dataset of its kind, it is easy to see how, left unchallenged, digital hate speech can and does evolve into acts of physical violence committed towards trans people.

As a cisgender ally to the trans community, I have seen how dangerous online communities can be as echo chambers for self-radicalization. My hope is that this report will bring the problem to the forefront of public conversation, and encourage an urgent review of hate speech guidelines on social platforms and in law.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this report, please know that you aren’t alone and support is available at DitchtheLabel.org

Liam Hackett, Ditch The Label CEO

Transphobia over time

Transphobia exists everywhere, and these animations, which contain around 2% of the transphobic data we collected, give a sense of the size of the challenge.

In this report you’ll be able to explore the online conversation around trans topics, to understand what’s going on, where, how, and what it means.

Use the buttons to toggle different map views.

 

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Transphobic abuse: The most common themes

Politics and race were the largest themes found within the transphobic comments, while other topics like gender and religion appear at a lower rate. The data didn’t show major differences between conversations from the US and the UK, although parenting and sports are twice as likely to be associated with transphobia in the UK.

Race
Politics
Politics
Race
Gender
Religion
Parenting
Sports
Sports
Parenting
Healthcare

Unfortunately, these findings don’t surprise me.

As someone who is in the public eye, I experience abuse on a daily basis and I worry that there are people in my community who don’t have the support systems to allow them to access the strength to deal with abusive behaviours. I’ve seen most of the transphobic comments in this report on my timeline, ranging from memes and abuse to actual threats to my safety.

As a trans woman of colour, being subjected to these comments is extremely difficult to navigate. You have to be dead inside to not let it bother you and it’s made even harder when you experience it all the time and the people perpetrating it don’t seem to be sanctioned for their behaviour. I was interested to see the relationship between transphobia and racism and do feel that racist people see transphobia as a tool to legitimize their racism. I’ve had transphobic comments on photos of me mixed in with nazi speech a number of times.

Transphobia is seen as a valid opinion. We never look at racism, sexism or homophobia and say it’s an opinion, so why is transphobia such a ‘free for all’?

It saddens me that the people encouraging abuse are often highly influential within the media and I don’t feel that social media platforms are doing enough to tackle transphobia. It is amazing to see a pyramid of transphobia, this is the first time I’ve ever seen it categorized into different levels that ultimately result in death for members of our community.

Munroe Bergdorf

Visualizing transphobic engagement

Which types of conversations were most likely to be engaged with or shared online, amplifying the message? These network visualizations show social media interactions that included anti-trans language or transphobic slurs across a four month period in the US and UK.

Transphobic Amplification: Overview

Here, each dot represents an individual, and the lines connecting them indicate a piece of content being shared.

The size of each dot reveals the person’s influence based on followers and impact. The colors of the dots highlight four of the main topics that were amplified.

Transphobic Amplification: Part 1

Michelle Obama was at the epicenter of much of the amplification of transphobic language during the time period we analyzed, with conspiracy theorists suggesting she is trans, and frequently calling her “Mike” or “Michael”.

Highlighted mention

Why are the tranny’s Michelle Obama’s hands so much bigger than most other women? #grammy

Transphobic Amplification: Part 2

In 2018, US President Trump began to put into motion a ban on trans military service, and in 2019 the US Supreme Court affirmed it as constitutional. As news surrounding Trump and the Supreme Court continued to unfold in Washington, transphobia unfolded online.

Highlighted mention

The USSC postponed hearing the DACA case but let stand Trump's tranny ban in the military & took a gun case out of NYC, which had prohibited transfer of licensed, unloaded permitted guns within the city.

Transphobic Amplification: Part 3

Following their initiative in 2018 to allow young girls to join their Cub Scout program, the Boy Scouts of America announced they were launching a program that would serve pre-teen and teen girls. This led to an amplification of transphobia.

Highlighted mention

Well… why aren’t boys allowed in the girl scouts? What about trannies? Progressives want boys using girls locker rooms… what about the girl scouts? Sexism!

Transphobic Amplification: Part 4

Some trans people have reclaimed slurs commonly used against them. Social media is also used by trans advocates to discourage the use of problematic language. Therefore, several pro-trans posts were among the most amplified uses of slurs and anti-trans language online.

Highlighted mention

“let me guess… you’re a homo” haha! you’re gonna hate me when I tell you I’m a tranny too.

Transphobic Engagement

In this network, the lines represent replies or comments, while the colors highlight the main drivers of transphobic engagement.

In our data, the post receiving the most transphobic engagement was from an author listing transphobic slurs and microaggressions. The most common replies then used those slurs against the author.

Example reply to highlighted post

T girl, tranny, passing... call the word police on me and say you read something mean online.

The Pyramid of Transphobia

This pyramid shows transphobic attitudes and behaviors in segments growing in severity from bottom to top. Modelled similarly to the Pyramid of Hate the Pyramid of Transphobia shows how behaviors categorized on the lower tier can support and lead to higher-level ones.

When these attitudes and behaviors are challenged, escalation can be stopped.

Trans
Genocide

Muffins

SOme text thingers

Sample mentions

Hello there

Transphobic
Violence

Muffins

SOme text thingers

Sample mentions

Hello there

Trans Discrimination

Muffins

SOme text thingers

Sample mentions

Hello there

Acts of Trans Bias

Muffins

SOme text thingers

Sample mentions

Hello there

Transphobic Attitudes

Muffins

SOme text thingers

Sample mentions

Hello there

Sample mentions

Trigger warning

Please note the following contains raw social media posts (slightly modified for anonymity) which you may find disturbing.

Resources for getting help and advice are linked below.

Transphobia: Hateful terms

Over the three and a half years studied, 1.5 million transphobic mentions were found.

By far the most common transphobic insult found online was ‘tranny’, with over a million mentions of the term between 2015 and 2019. These insults, shared sometimes in their tens of thousands, represent different aspects and levels of ignorance and intolerance. But all can be hurtful and, post by post, they can contribute to a wider atmosphere that is unwelcoming to trans people.

1
1,204,243
2
156,050
3
56,398
4
31,729
5
25,686
6
17,939
7
6,037
8
3,381
9
448

Cyberbullying – key terms

  1. 1 Tranny/Trannies
  2. 2 Shemale
  3. 3 Gender bender
  4. 4 Transtrender
  5. 5 Chicks with dicks
  6. 6 Heshe
  7. 7 Lady boy
  8. 8 Shehe
  9. 9 Tranny trap

How much abuse I face will be based on how passable I am.

The sad reality is that these statistics don’t shock me, it’s something I witness everyday. From Google alerts to my social media channels, transphobic abuse online is real. How much abuse I face will be based on how passable I am. My experience navigating the world will be very different from many others in my exact situation. I am a masculine presenting transman, which in today’s society, makes me more safe, palatable, and acceptable.

As a man you must be masculine and as a woman you must be feminine, when as humans, we all have both tendencies. We as trans people are defined by our aesthetics, being passable is such a luxury and not something not every trans person gets to experience.

There have been many points in my life where I’ve felt a level of guilt for being so passable. I know that I will receive less abuse and will be genuinely safer because of my appearance. Being more “cis-passing/presenting” means I fit into the narrative of the binary genders which makes me vaild, and everyone who doesn’t, isn’t.

Hate crimes towards trans people can range from dead-naming, purposefully misgendering, as far as being excluded from services, including health services. The real concern here is that these offenders aren’t being held accountable for their actions. Allowing these individuals to get away with this sort of behavior online is acting as a gateway to the real world.

This report should act as an eye opener. Equality and respect to all humans regardless of how they choose to identify or look needs to be the standard. The issue is not trans people, it’s the way society views trans people.

Kenny Ethan Jones

Comparing transphobia across different sites

Here you can compare the level of transphobic vs constructive conversation across different sites.

Note: ‘Other’ mentions are from sites that don’t fall under the other headings – for example, video sites (beyond YouTube), or review sites.

Instagram

Discussion volume
1619872
Abuse volume
82739
Abuse (of total)
5%

Twitter

Discussion volume
5547445
Abuse volume
789615
Abuse (of total)
12%

Blogs

Discussion volume
169677
Abuse volume
36629
Abuse (of total)
18%

News

Discussion volume
257737
Abuse volume
62255
Abuse (of total)
19%

Forums

Discussion volume
394963
Abuse volume
263788
Abuse (of total)
40%

YouTube

Discussion volume
2312
Abuse volume
8120
Abuse (of total)
78%

Other

Discussion volume
61702
Abuse volume
278793
Abuse (of total)
82%

Discussion

Larger sites like Twitter and Instagram had the lowest ratio of abuse to general discussion around trans issues, suggesting that people are using these platforms to spark a conversation and educate. That said, it should be noted that the volume of posts on these sites is far larger.

Comment sections on news sites made up a lot of the abuse there, and forums (which often offer anonymity) had a high percentages of abusive language (40%).

But YouTube and sites in the ‘Other’ category (including a lot of video content) had the most abusive commentary. Again, please note that volumes on these sites are much lower than the bigger social networks analyzed.

Comparing conversation between the UK and the US, mentions across most of the site categories were more hostile in the US.

Tracking conversation over time

Here’s all three and a half years of transphobic and pro-trans conversation plotted against key events that happened over the course of that timeline.

Trans student federal
protection withdrawn
Trump proposes trans
military ban
Trump proposes biologically
defining gender
Military ban comes into force
Trans student federal
protection withdrawn
Trump proposes trans
military ban
Trump proposes biologically
defining gender
Military ban comes into force
Brexit
referendum
Trump proposes trans
military ban
'TERF's hijack London
Pride 2018
Gender Recognition Act deadline extended
Brexit
referendum
Trump proposes trans
military ban
'TERF's hijack London
Pride 2018
Gender Recognition Act deadline extended

Some spikes in conversation are reactions to world events, but a large spike in UK transphobic conversation was simply due to an anti-trans joke being shared lots of times. Online conversation can act independently of political context to drive transphobic or pro-trans narratives.

Something else you’ll see is that constructive, pro-trans conversation far outweighs the negative. Transphobic conversation is in the minority, but it’s still very loud and very damaging.

Abuse
Discussion
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Key Events, 2016-2019

20 Feb 2017

Trans student federal protection withdrawn

The US withdrew guidance dating back to the Obama administration stating federal law requires transgender students to have access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity.

+ Show mentions

  • As if school isn’t hard enough at times for trans students, Trump has taken away rights for separate bathrooms. Heartless!
  • Do you want trannie chicks with dicks in high school locker-rooms showering with chicks without dicks?
  • Thanks Trump for protecting school kids bathrooms in schools. I hope the states keep them separated.
  • How many trannies could a single school possibly have? Not that many. So, male, female, and let the trans use the disabled toilet.

24 July 2017

Trump proposes trans military ban

President Trump has banned transgender people from serving in the US army. President Trump announced his intention to roll out this policy back in 2017, citing ‘tremendous medical costs and disruption’.

+ Show mentions

  • All the Militaries of this world will laugh at us and think that we’re weak with Trannies in our military, so good on Trump
  • Not allowing trannies saves us money and loads of time wasted in normal military people’s lives.
  • Trump is my president! Such a good move. We do not need trannies in our military. Our enemies would never take us seriously. Trump was so smart for this
  • Preventing trannies in the military is so smart, not just because our soldiers don’t want to be in a foxhole with a tranny, but because trannies have a very high risk of suicide. Why would the military allow a huge suicide risk?
  • Russia must be laughing its ass off about our military, full of gays, trannies, Women and assorted misfits. This is what liberalism has done to us.

22 Oct 2018

Trump proposes biological definition of gender

President Trump formally proposed to roll back Obama-era civil rights that safeguard transgender people against healthcare discrimination. Part of this proposed regulation would entail redefining gender identity to match the sex of a person. This echoes a statement put out by the White House in late 2018 reinforcing that gender will solely be based on genitalia at birth, sparking the birth of #WeWillNotBeErased, a hashtag started by transgender people protesting the proposed changes.

+ Show mentions

  • The rage at transvestites is just dumb. No one is “erasing” trans people by dressing like a woman. If trannies can be “erased” by dressing like one, they are fragile as hell.
  • Trannys have already erased themselves or their pre tranny selves or whatever!
  • Trannies being erased is a natural fact because the Lord states if they do not repent like other LGBTs they’ll face God’s judgment and be incinerated
  • “We will not be erased”? A whack job tranny fighting to keep the history of Trannyism in the public eye? Strange Days!

8 Apr 2019

Military ban comes into force

The military ban barring transgender people from serving in the US army came into force, citing ‘tremendous medical costs and disruption’.

+ Show mentions

  • When soldiers needed saving, I didn’t care who they were. They were American heroes that we were going to bring home. Being trans has nothing to do with your ability to serve our country. I’m a veteran and I’m against the transgender military ban.
  • It’s about the high cost to support them and separate them from the true women and true men. Besides, an effective military needs chemistry. Not possible with trannies.
  • I’m glad Trump fired trannies from the military.
  • Trannies are mentally unfit to serve in the military. They want to join to get their transition paid for.

23 June 2016

Brexit referendum

Brexit itself didn’t create a significant impact on pro and anti-trans conversation. That said, the aftermath of the referendum has seen Brexit appear in conversations on both sides. While some discuss the future of trans equality in an uncertain political climate, others with anti-trans sentiment use #Brexit to illustrate their frustration with the current state of affairs.

+ Show mentions

  • Trannies are derailing Brexit. Anything is possible.
  • Yes to free speech, yes to Brexit but no to the gay/tranny aspect that comes with it.
  • I recently acquired a tranny gf, she’s woke about Brexit but she’s still anti-Trump. What should I do?
  • It’s a mockery to have Ed Izzard badly dressed as a tranny lecturing us on Brexit.

7 July 2018

‘TERF’s hijack London Pride 2018

London Pride 2018 saw a group of anti-trans protesters make their way to the front of the parade. It was a moment that made waves online, with many voicing their frustration that the protesters were able to spend a long time at the front, drawing attention to their cause.

+ Show mentions

  • Horrified to hear of anti-trans protesters disrupting Pride today, although I’m proud to say I didn’t see them, I was standing with the lesbians in favour of inclusion for ALL!
  • yet another reason for no cops at Pride. they support terfs protesting trans women but not women objecting to it.
  • Feminism that excludes trans women isn’t feminism. Pride that excludes trans ppl isn’t Pride. London Pride should be ashamed.
  • Pride is a protest, it’s about condemning and confronting bigots. Giving space to hate speech at pride is not acceptable. We owe Pride to trans women of colour and it’s disgraceful to let TERFs be heard at Pride.

15 Oct 2018

Gender Recognition Act deadline extended

The Gender Recognition Act (2004) is an act of Parliament the government opened a consultation on to find out how people felt about amending it. This caused an impressive spike amount of online conversation, particularly in October 2018 when Stonewall tweeted about the deadline being extended. The organization encouraged people to #ComeOutForTransEquality by adding their voices.

+ Show mentions

  • It’s upsetting that my husband believes that I hate trannnies. I’ve explained all the implications of the GRA but he does not believe that men will be in women’s prisons or changing rooms. I don’t blame him, it’s all very fantastical
  • Corbyn supports trans rights (which is funny because may is pushing the GRA), it’s like, fuck your children’s chance at a future, I hate liberal feminists
  • Nobody but demented trannies is in favour of the GRA.
  • Get rid of the Gender Recognition Act. Men cannot become women, and vice versa.

Conversations and transphobic comments by location

The rates and nature of bullying behaviors vary from region to region, due to factors like population make-up, access to quality education, and local culture.

Regional variations in dialogue

In areas colored brighter red, we found higher volumes of transphobia or pro-trans conversation (click below to toggle which data you’re looking at).

Darker areas contained lower volumes of conversation.

Note: We advise caution when interpreting data of this kind. For example, some large areas show as low volume because they are sparsely populated, while the volume of conversations isn't normalized by region population.

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Click here to ask us a question and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

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