My friend's son was accepted into the college of his choice based, in part, on a series of essays. An active online gamer as a 12 year old, he was propagandized by ugly right-wing bigotry, a lot of it aimed at transgender people. I think it's worth reading, especially for anyone with young teenage children who disappear for long periods of time into the internet.
In the last few years, my opinion on the subject of Transgender people has changed dramatically. Being just a young tween, I was naïve (to say the least) when it came to Trans and other LGBT issues. I was just beginning unsupervised access to the internet and with it the misinformation that pervades online spaces. This was during the height of the 2016 election, which brought with it the height of online anti-trans and anti-LGBT content. Being young and naïve, I failed to notice that this false rhetoric, especially around Trans issues, was slowly making its way into my daily consumption of online content. I noticed that this type of content was able to sneak into view by disguising itself as content related to games or movies. As someone interested in those genres, I consumed a lot of online content related to those topics. When the content of many of these content creators shifted from standard nerdy topics like Star Wars or comic books towards complaining about the supposed “woke” takeover of the video game and movie industry by ‘Feminism’ and the ‘LGBT agenda,’ I was initially inclined to believe it. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my views were being pushed further and further toward hatefulness. The worst was against Trans people, who are easily one of the biggest targets of online hate and harassment. Starting with semi-logical assertions about sex and biology that only a 12-year-old (like me) would believe, it gradually evolved into just pure unadulterated hate and viciousness towards Trans individuals: dehumanizing them and asserting supposed sexual deviance. Attracted by their veneer of logic and reason, I initially absorbed their hatefulness, and came to hold hateful attitudes towards Trans individuals myself. The worst part, perhaps, was that I still considered myself an open-minded individual while at the same time believing and even espousing hateful ideas. My perspective only started to shift when a very close friend of mine came out as Trans. At first, due to the lies and hate that I had been fed, I didn’t believe that person. I thought that it was an effort to attract attention, but since I was close with and liked this individual, I kept my mouth shut. As time went on and I observed this friend’s journey, the hateful and dehumanizing image of Trans people I had held began to fracture. I saw that Trans people are humans too, and they deserve to experience and chart their own course through life. I became educated on things like puberty blockers and the difference between sex and gender and came to see the content that I had been consuming was just wrong. I became more and more frustrated with this hateful content and came to see these creators for what they are: liars and propagandists. I quit watching that type of content and reoriented my viewing toward other subjects I had watched before falling down this rabbit hole. I came to interact with more Trans people, and learn about and respect their experiences. The whole ordeal taught me that I needed to be more careful with the content I consumed and to be much more open-minded about other people’s experiences. Today, I consciously try to consume only unbiased news and get my information from unbiased sources. I also fiercely support the rights of Trans people and other marginalized groups facing prejudice. I thank that friend for helping me to step out of that echo chamber and allowing me to develop more accepting and humanitarian views.