What is transvestigating? The transphobic online conspiracy theories that harm all women

The term transvestigating – a mash-up of trans and investigating – refers to conspiracy theories that falsely claim individuals, typically women, are transgender and are hiding their “true” gender identity.

Celebrities, political figures and professional athletes have all been “accused” of being trans with no evidence other than the conspiracy theorists’ own warped, often misogynistic, view of femininity and gender.

A recent investigation by Teen Vogue found that the theories are most prominent on X/Twitter and YouTube, and are compiled by users who already have a predisposed hatred of transgender people and who are often taken in by antisemitic “secret ruler” conspiracies.

Many of these users believe that celebrities, including Taylor Swift, Serena Williams and Michelle Obama, display vaguely defined “male” characteristics – a belief rooted in misogyny and transphobia.

Male celebrities aren’t immune from being “transvestigated” either, although it is less common.

Female athletes are often regularly “accused” of being trans after winning competitions.

The theories emerged in early 2017, primarily on YouTube, and continued to gain trajectory alongside the rise of discrimination and hatred aimed at trans people.

LGBTQ+ not-for-profit advocacy group GLAAD has branded tranvestigation conspiracies “hate-driven”, saying they are just “one example of anti-LGBTQ+ online hate and disinformation”.

It uses the now-deleted YouTube video titled Transvestigation of Madonna – undeniable proof she is a man” as an example.

“The video offers a faux-scientific analysis of the pop star’s anatomy, which serves as a vehicle for a lengthy diatribe of dehumanising anti-trans tropes and rhetoric,” GLAAD said.

“It should go without saying, but we will say it: people should not be bullied and harassed with dehumanising attacks on their bodies and identities.”

They urged people to report any examples of online transvestigation, pointing to policies on major social media platforms which prohibit hate aimed at people with protected characteristics.