Anti-trans documentary takes over X – but users are fighting back

Stock image of a trans flag waving in the wind

Those who are still holding on to X (formerly Twitter) were horrified when they logged on this week to find site-wide advertising for a deeply anti-trans documentary.

Detrans: The Dangers of Gender-Affirming Care is a 21-minute film by conservative advocacy group Prager University Foundation that’s now being heavily advertised to all X users as part of their $1 million marketing campaign.

The documentary, promoted on X as the “most important short documentary ever” tells the story of two individuals who have detransitioned – meaning they reversed the gender-affirming care they received when they discovered that they weren’t transgender.

Adverts for PragerU's Detrans documentary on X
Elon Musk’s X is promoting an anti-trans documentary by PragerU. (X)

Both individuals in the documentary explain that they began transitioning when they were adults, but their stories help to push the documentary’s overall message against gender-affirming care for minors.

Documentaries like Detrans have long been criticised by activists and trans advocates, due to their reputation of cherry-picking a small number of stand-out cases of people who are unhappy after their transition and disregarding the fact that the vast majority of those who transition report being happier afterward.

In 2021, a review of 27 different studies uncovered that just one per cent of people over the age of 13 who received gender-affirming surgeries experienced regret. 

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Additionally, it’s incredibly rare for trans people under the age of 18 to undergo gender-affirming surgery. Minors who seek gender-affirming care are far more likely to be treated with hormone therapy and puberty blockers – only after getting informed consent from a parent and speaking extensively with a GP.

Despite being supported and advocated for by every major medical association in the country, gender-affirming care for minors has been heavily restricted by 22 states over the last three years.

This agenda is now seemingly being pushed even further by Elon Musk’s X which, last year, stripped back the social media platform’s anti-LGBTQ+ harassment policies.

In the latest push to move X in a more conservative, polarizing direction, Musk and co appear to have given PragerU a “timeline takeover” in order to promote their short film.

PragerU thanked X in a press release for agreeing to promote their film across the platform, noting that YouTube had rejected their proposal “almost immediately upon submission.”

Users expressed anger and confusion when adverts for Detrans started popping up on their feeds, with no option to block or mute the #DeTrans hashtag.

“The simple fact that I can’t say I’m not interested in seeing #Detrans should really show everyone what kind of person @elonmusk really is,” tweeted one user.

Another asked: “Why am I allowed to say I’m disinterested in so many topics but when I get hateful rhetoric like #detrans promoted onto my trending tab I’m suddenly not allowed to mark it for disinterest (despite having PragerU blocked and the hashtag muted)?”

When users realised what was going on, it didn’t take long for them to take matters into their own hands.

Now trans people, allies, and Musk haters in general are hijacking the #Detrans hashtag and flooding it with content that has nothing to do with the PragerU documentary.

Some are using the hashtag to share their own transition stories, helping to spread the word that the vast majority of trans people who get gender-affirming treatment are far happier afterward.

“Our best resistance is simply existing,” tweeted one user. “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere, and I couldn’t be happier to be trans – and they hate that.”

A second shared: “Hey guys! Since transphobic propaganda is now being promoted on this garbage app, now is the time to destroy its usability by spamming the hashtag with… well, anything! My name is River, and gender-affirming care has saved my life.”

“Gender-affirming care saved my life. My transition isn’t a mistake and it never will be,” wrote a third, under the #Detrans hashtag.

Others are flooding the hateful hashtag with just about anything else they can think of – which mostly winds up being cute dog and cat pics.

Kelly Robinson, president of the Human Rights Commission has commented on Musk’s X’s damaging collaboration with Prager U and “prioritising their bottom line over the lived experience and humanity of transgender people.”

She said in a statement seen by NBC News: “So-called documentaries like the one peddled by PragerU do nothing more than spread misinformation and stigmatize transgender people.

“Given the growing threats of violence faced by the transgender community, offering a platform to this type of hate-filled propaganda is not just immoral–it’s dangerous. Today’s timeline takeover is another stain on the platform.”

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