A Reddit post shared by some conservatives as proof that liberal parents are pressing their children to undergo gender transition has been revealed as a fake created by trolls.
More than 10,000 people retweeted a screenshot of the post shared by libertarian journalist and former US Senate candidate Justin O’Donnell last week, on top of thousands more who shared it in other places.
The post, originally made last August, purported to be a plea for advice by a trans parent who was forcing their 14-year-old child to take estrogen, a key component of hormone therapy for transwomen.
Yet evidence compiled by Reuters and reviewed by The Independent shows that both the post and the Reddit board that hosted it were invented by members of a dedicated trolling community as “bait” for political partisans.
Some of that evidence was first archived last September by Trace Underwood, an ex-Mormon blogger, who also showed that the same forum was behind a supposed Reddit board for Texas abortion “bounty hunters” that fooled many progressives.
The trans child spoof echoed long-running claims by US conservatives and trans-exclusionary feminists that some trans children are being compelled or “groomed” by their parents to transition against their wishes, for which there is little evidence.
The governor of Texas has asked officials to treat healthcare transition for under-18s as child abuse, while Fox News pundits, Republican officials, and even members of Congress have sought to tie trans rights to paedophilia by referring to childhood transition as “grooming.”
“Anyone else have trouble convincing your teen kids to continue transitioning?” the fake post asked in its title. “My 14-year-old daughter (assigned male at birth) has started refusing her estradiol from her so I’ve been crushing the pills and putting it in her cereal in the morning.”
The post continued: “I’m just not sure why she doesn’t want to take her pills anymore.”
Other users chimed in supportively in the thread below, advising the poster to isolate their child from their friends and continue pushing them to transition against their will.
This discussion took place on a Reddit board or “subreddit” called r/TransParentTransKid, ostensibly set up the very same day as a “safe and supportive space” for trans people with trans or potentially trans children to share “tips, tricks, and techniques ”.
However, readers familiar with the language of trolling communities might have raised an eyebrow at the board rules’ repeated use of the phase “heckin’ cute and valid”, which is an internet meme often used to mock LGBT+ people.
Sure enough, a series of posts on the trolling forum RDrama.net from 5 August 2020, the same day r/TransParentTransKids was created, show users discussing a plan to create the Reddit board and fill it with confected stories designed to generate outrage.
“Someone please snap up r/TransParentTransKid so it can be filled with stories about how our real/adoptive children magically learned they were also trans after finding out about their parents,” said one RDrama user.
Another user, known as Tariq, replied “done”, shortly followed by a user named FunkyDuffy posting a link to the fake advice thread along with a gif that reads: “I’m doing my part!”
The author of the advice thread on Reddit was also called FunkyDuffy, and one of the top supportive comments was from a user with exactly the same username as Tariq.
On 6 August, another RDrama thread invited users to “come help turn r/TransParentTransKid into a lolcow grazing ground”, using a slang term for gullible or highly reactive web users who can easily be farmed for laughs.
“Someone came up with this subreddit yesterday. Just need a dozen more posts in there and I can post about it in r/cringetopia or something for a fresh flow of seethe,” said the thread creator.
“Don’t make the bait posts too obvious, but you don’t have to try too hard either since Redditors will eat up anything that makes them mad.”
Other users protested that the trolling had been too obvious. “This is not good bait… no one cognisant enough to string a sentence together would fall for this.”
Reddit has now banned r/TransParentTransKid for breaking its rules against “creating or repurposing a subreddit to reconstitute or serve the same objective as a previously banned or quarantined subreddit”.
That may be a reference to RDrama’s predecessor, Reddit’s r/Drama board, which was reportedly “quarantined” by the company for breaking its rules.
Reddit did not respond to a request for more details.