Eight transphobic posts are shared online every minute in the UK and US, a new report has found. A recent report analyzed 10 million social media and online posts in the US and UK over three and a half years uncovered 1.5 million transphobic posts.
The report by global anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label and its Brighton-based consumer intelligence agency partner Brandwatch found politics and race were the theme where transphobic posts are most likely to occur in conversations. Gender and religion appear at a lower rate. While the data didn’t show notable differences between conversations from the US and the UK, parenting and sports are twice as likely to be associated with transphobia in the UK.
Ditch the Label and Brandwatch described the harassment as being “inhumane”.
The study compared transphobia across a range of sites, including social media, blogs, news outlets and forums. The online posts uncovered by the report range in severity from the expression of transphobic attitudes, anti-trans bias, and discrimination, through to threats of violence and genocide.
“I’ve had transphobic comments on photos of me mixed in with Nazi speech a number of times.” – Munroe Bergdorf, Activist and Model
“As a trans woman of color, being subjected to these comments is extremely difficult to navigate,” British transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf said in response to the report discoveries. “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 behavior.”
“Unfortunately, these findings don’t surprise me. For someone who is in the public eye, I experience abuse on a daily basis,” Bergdorf said in a statement. She shared that she had seen most of the transphobic comments included in the report on her own social media timeline, ranging from memes to threats to her safety. “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 on a number of times.”
The study found a much smaller number of posts about trans-related issues on YouTube, but a massive 78% were found to be abusive, in contrast to just 5% on Instagram and 12% on Twitter; putting forward that these social media platforms are being used to “spark a conversation and educate.”
Comment sections on news websites were found to contain a high percentage of anti-trans abuse (19%). Forums, where people are often allowed to post anonymously, also contained a high volume of anti-trans abusive language (40%).
“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.” — Liam Hackett, Ditch the Label CEO
Notably, mentions of trans issues across most of the site categories were more hostile in the US.
The transphobic insult “tranny” featured more than 1.2 million times between 2015 and 2019, accounting for 80% of the insults studied; while “shemale” had 150,000 mentions.
The researchers also found examples of dead-naming: purposefully using a transgender person’s previous name from before they transitioned.
In the UK, politics appeared to be a central theme associated with the abuse, with the topic appearing in 27% of all the transphobic posts. Race was a close second, appearing in 24% of the transphobic messages, and was especially common when the abused person was a person of color.
In the US, race was found to be the main driver, appearing in 34% of the abusive comments, followed by politics, which was raised in 33% of the comments.
Parenting topics were also seen to be used as triggers for transphobia, with people using their parental status – “as a mother of two kids…” – to justify their views. This type of abuse tended to center around the parents’ fears, for example not wanting their children to be around trans people.
Likewise, transphobic slurs were used by some sports fans alongside racist, sexist and homophobic abuse, even when the intended victim did not identify as transgender. For example, tennis superstar Serena Williams had transphobic insults targeted at her because she was not considered to look feminine enough.
Liam Hackett, CEO of Ditch the Label, encourages everyone to read the report. Hackett told Refinery29, “Unless you are trans, have a loved one who is trans or are an activist, it’s easy to be in the dark about the problem. The reality is, transphobia is growing at an alarming rate and online abuse can and does spill into physical violence offline.”
Urging LGBTQ allies to call out transphobia whenever they see it in a social media post, forum comment or online article Hackett added, “Switch off the shows that ridicule trans people and stop buying the papers with transphobic headlines. There are already movements, such as Stop Funding Hate, aiming to make media outlets and their advertisers accountable for the hateful content they produce or fund.”
Cover photo: Humans in Kansas City’s first trans pride march. Photo Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3