Trigger Warning - This article contains topics and images that some may find triggering as the subject matter addresses anti-transgender sentiment, cyberbullying, and bigotry.
If you are out as transgender in any way, especially on social media, you most likely have experienced some sort of run in with an anti-transgender troll, TERF, cyberbully, or just plain old bigot at some point in time. As if it weren't hard enough to be transgender in today’s society, all of a sudden you have this to add to the pile of things we have to deal with day in and day out. The Internet troll, the lowest of the low, as low as it gets.
If you are lucky enough to have not experienced trolling, don’t know what it is, or have literally lived in a cave, here is what it means to troll someone on the Internet:
gerund or present participle: trolling
1. Make a deliberately offensive or provocative online post with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.
The goal of an Internet troll is to trigger you. Their reward is to elicit an angry or emotional response from the person or group they are trolling. They want that back and forth, the argument. They want your temperature to rise. Psychological studies have shown that trolls display narcissistic, psychopathic, and sadistic traits. Many would even go against their own beliefs just create discord. You might have heard the term “Don’t feed the trolls,” and it is said for good reason. In most cases, the best way to get rid of one is to ignore them. Feeding them with a response usually ends up making matters worse.
One of the favorite targets of Internet trolls happens to be the transgender community. We are currently the political football of the moment. Politicians use us to divide the country and bring people to the polls. The trolls consider it easy to trigger us just by denying our very existence as they descend upon the comment sections all across the news and social media landscapes. We are a hot button issue, and a troll is easily able to create discord just by posting a controversial comment. Ignorant people who are uneducated on what being transgender actually is usually tend to fall in line with their discord. It is amplified by the political landscape. People defend their Democratic, or Republican view based not on what they actually know, but what their team stands for. People fall in line and don’t give it a thought. Once further division is created amongst these ranks, the troll achieves their objective.
"ALL WAS FINE AND GOOD; THAT IS UNTIL A FEW MONTHS BEFORE LAST YEAR’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION."
Here at Transgender Universe, we had been lucky for a while. Of course, we dealt with the occasional troll or bigot from time to time, but it was manageable. It would usually result in a warning or even a ban in extreme cases. Many of us here were certainly guilty of feeding them at one time or another. For the most part, things were under control. After all, being a transgender website we were prepared to have to deal with such matters from time to time. All was fine and good; that is until a few months before last year’s presidential election.
All of a sudden we were literally under attack. Trolling became outright cyberbullying. Our inboxes were being flooded with ant-transgender hate messages and death threats. On some days, we would receive over 500 of them. The worst of it was on Facebook. The messages would not stop, and we could not tell whether someone was a member of our community or someone just trying to bait us. Soon after the election, matters became worse. Thousands of hate messages were pouring in from everywhere.
I would wake up every morning, make my coffee, and log in to see the droves of hateful messages each day. Now I would like to think I am a strong person, but being told to go kill yourself a couple of hundred times a day can start to weigh on you after a certain amount of time. The Facebook messages, emails, and hateful comments were coming in at a pace we could just not handle. We began to wonder if we would be overrun to the point where they would shut us down. After all, wasn’t that their goal? To scare us and discourage us enough so we wouldn’t continue to do the work we do? To scare us back into hiding?
We would later find out it was not just us who were under attack. Many transgender organizations and civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter were also facing similar attacks. Facebook was virtually useless in helping us, only investigating accounts where there were direct death threats. They would not assist with any of the other forms of harassment we were receiving. We were on our own.
We decided our only choice was to break the golden rule; we were going to feed the trolls. Not by going back at them, but by literally feeding them. We found the longest food recipes we could possibly find. Whenever we received a harassing message or threat, we would respond with one of these 7 page long recipes. We would hit them with a raspberry or blueberry jam recipe. We even invented a term for it. We were jamming them up. We were responding to nonsense with nonsense. We replied to every single harassing message we received by “jamming” them up. The confusion in their responses was a sight to be seen. Some people even thanked us for the recipe and went away, while others even apologized and changed their tone.
"WE REFUSED TO EVER BE TRIGGERED AGAIN BY A TROLL."
The reason was that they weren’t getting their reward, the triggered reaction. Many of the trolls liked to take a screenshot their work and share it in their groups on 4chan and other places. Our long confusing responses denied them their trophy. We refused to ever be triggered again by a troll. Within a short time, we were able to bring the trolling and cyberbullying down to expected levels. After a while, we started to even have fun with the process. Never again would they obtain their objective with us.
In time, we were able to find out that most of the trolls and cyberbullies we were dealing with were in Russia. Putin literally has an army of Internet trolls working out of a 4 story building in St. Petersburg, and their goal is to create political discord among western nations. They would create fake accounts, many of which would be so typically American looking to a point where it was ridiculous. For example, every fake Facebook account would have a picture of a favorite football team while having some pro American looking posts or flags on them. They were also horrible with the English language. We became experts at detecting them, and would “jam” them up once they even said hello to us. Over time, we started to respond with pictures of their boss, Putin, either staring at a cupcake or wearing makeup. Our trolling process is virtually automated at this point, so they can troll all they want, but it won’t have any impact.
If this story sounds ridiculous, well it is. The whole concept of trolling is ridiculous. The moral of the story is not to let the trolls trigger you, even if that is how you feel. Don’t give them the reward they are looking for. The world is not going to change in the comments section on some news site or on social media. It is not going to change with politics and laws. It will change when more people literally know us personally, when people have positive experiences with us. Those moments are priceless, and they cut though all the discord and misinformation. That is when society will change. Until then, don’t add to the discord. Don’t let them trigger you.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,
P.S. Here is a link for a really long jam recipe: