Sun 21 Mar 2021 — 3 min

In the face of controversy, a common tactic amongst anti-trans groups has been to make claims that the organisation or group is not chiefly concerned with opposing trans rights, but instead pushing a defence of other competing civil rights issues. Their mission statements include causes like women's rights, child protection and LGBT rights / activism.

However, upon examination of the social media following for these organisations, very little overlap is found with more established groups in those areas.

<i>Fig. 1</i>: A matrix showing a measure of the overlap between social media followings of 12 different groups.
Fig. 1: A matrix showing a measure of the overlap between social media followings of 12 different groups.

A standard measure of the overlap or similarity between two sets is the Symkiewicz-Simpson coefficient. It is calculated as the size of the intersection of the two sets (items the sets share in common) divided by the size of the smaller set. For two sets that share nothing in common, the coefficient is 0. We can then multiply this by 100 to give us a ‘score’ between 0 and 100.

When we calculate this coefficient for the social media followings of some common charity, advocacy and activist groups, we can clearly see that there is very little network overlap between anti-trans groups.

The matrix in Fig. 1 is darker when two groups share many followers in common, and lighter when they share few. The highest score between an anti-trans group and the other groups listed is 17. The scores are more typically below 5. Contrastingly, more established organisations are seen to have typical overlap scores with one another of around 40. Finally, we observe that anti-trans groups are very well networked with one-another, having typical overlap scores around 56.

It does seem odd for groups that claim to be concerned about women's rights, children's rights and LGBT rights to not show what would be considered typical social media community connection to rights groups in those areas. The simplest explanation for this is that these organisations are simply fronts for anti-trans campaigns and don’t interact at all with the groups they claim to represent.

In fact, the groups seem so distinct, we can wonder what the specific connections between organisations look like. Fig. 2 shows the social media network between the 13 groups shown above. Nodes represent the groups and the grey edges between them represent whether the two organisations follow each other.

<i>Fig. 2</i> - Social network connectivity for sample groups
Fig. 2 - Social network connectivity for sample groups

We can clearly see that there are two separate communities here. What’s interesting is that while not all the groups in the yellow-coloured community follow each other, all of the groups in the red-coloured community are connected, despite having different goals and objectives according to their mission statements.

The question to ask is, in lieu of any significant connection to established and respected organisations, what is it that unites these groups into such a well connected community? The most obvious explanation is that these groups are so united and interconnected because they all share an opposition to trans rights, and their lack of connection to the wider activist and advocacy community is for that same reason.