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An LGTBQ advocacy Google map has been repurposed into an anti-trans ‘hit list’ of clinics

The map includes LGBTQ resource centers, children's hospitals, Planned Parenthood locations, and more.

 

Claire Goforth

Tech

Posted on Sep 27, 2022   Updated on Sep 30, 2022, 4:00 pm CDT

A transphobic group co-opted a Google map of facilities that provide medical care and resources to LGBTQ people. Many now liken this map to a list of targets for people to harass and potentially attack these facilities, their staff, and clientele, at a time when the LGBTQ community faces a rising tide of real-life threats.

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The Global Gender Mapping Project states that its goal is to abolish the “gender industry.” Its map lists clinics and resource centers whose offerings range from gender-affirming surgeries to laser hair removal and counseling. Many of the locations serve the community at large in addition to LGBTQ children and adults. Offering even the most innocuous service for transgender people, such as providing referrals for counseling or other services, appears to be enough to be included on this map.

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Opposing the validity and humanity of LGBTQ people—particularly transgender people—has become the latest far-right obsession. Over the last year, homophobic and transphobic social media influencers crusaded against children’s hospitals, physicians, and others who provide care and affirmation to LGBTQ people. In recent months, hate groups have shown up at Pride events and drag queen story hours to harass LGBTQ people and their allies.

Much of the vitriol focuses on “concern” over transgender children. The internet is rife with outrage at hospitals and medical professionals who provide any type of gender-affirming care to transgender and nonbinary minors. Earlier this month, a woman was arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat on a children’s hospital that had been targeted by the transphobic Libs of TikTok Twitter account. The accountholder Chaya Raichik denies responsibility for inspiring any of the many threats the hospital and its staff received after she posted about it.

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The Gender Mapping Project has thus far received less attention than Raichik and other right-wing figures campaigning against the LGBTQ community, perhaps in part because Twitter suspended the project’s account and its Facebook account has also been taken down, though it’s not clear if it was suspended or voluntarily deleted. The project has a YouTube channel and website where it solicits donations and tips on locations to add to its Google map.

Gender Mapping Project’s map was lifted from one a transgender activist created to help people find hormone replacement therapy (HRT) providers.

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In February 2021, Erin Reed tweeted, “So, it looks like a TERF group copied my informed consent map and added some hate to it along with anti-abortion tactics.”

“I am enraged. I made my informed consent HRT map specifically for people dealing with poverty or lack of access to be able to obtain hormones after a move, or obtain without going for a year of therapy they can’t afford,” she said. “And this dick is using it for hate.”

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Reed later told Salon that the Gender Mapping Project had copied her typos and notes verbatim. The project founder, Alix Aharon, reportedly denied it.

Via Twitter direct message on Tuesday afternoon, Reed told the Daily Dot that she filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim and Google removed the map. Then Gender Mapping Project put it back up.

“I fought with them for a while, and eventually, they did start changing the locations and editing them so that they no longer had the same typos, and adding to the map to cover more than just informed consent gender clinics,” she said.

Last fall, Aharon also told Salon that her map merely provides information and doesn’t advocate harm. “My map is subject to interpretation, I don’t express an opinion on the actual map. If someone thinks that child gender clinics are a wonderful thing then my map is simply a resource for treatment,” she reportedly said.

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She reiterated her sentiments in a statement to the Daily Dot.

“I don’t really see how a map can be transphobic, especially when many pro-trans organizations have similar projects,” she said via Twitter direct message. “The purpose of the project is to shed light on this capitalistic endeavor. I don’t really have other political views. If someone thinks [transitioning] kids is great then they can use my map to find hormones.”

Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School, likens the Gender Mapping Project’s tactics to the anti-choice movement’s attacks on abortion providers.

“Given the threats made against clinics and attacks on LGBTQ community centers, this poses an immediate risk to every place listed in this map,” she tweeted. “Anti-abortion activists use similar lists to coordinate bombings of clinics and murders of providers.”

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Multiple people tagged Google in comments on Caraballo’s thread about the map. The YouTube account includes ads, meaning Google and the project are both profiting off this account.

Via email, a Google spokesperson told the Daily Dot, “Our teams are investigating. We have clear policies that outline prohibited content on My Maps, and when we find content that violates these policies, we remove it.”

The company noted that anyone can create a custom map with its platform; similarly, anyone can report maps they believe violate its policies. It added that YouTube prohibits hate speech and harassment.

Although its website claims that its aim is to protect children, Gender Mapping Project’s map also includes locations that provide services to adults, likely because its original list was directly lifted from Reed’s. It lists more than 150 facilities in the category, “adult advocacy, support & ancillary services” that offer things such as support groups, chest binders, and STD testing.

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Gender Mapping Project claims that its “evidence” has been influential in Texas and Arkansas and has been viewed by officials worldwide. It’s not clear how it has been influential or whether this is true.

That influence seems to be growing nevertheless. In recent days, people have tagged high-profile transphobic social media users in the apparent hopes of getting them to promote the map.

LGBTQ people are worried about its growing profile.

“Seriously @google @googlemaps you are putting people in danger by not taking this down,” wrote one. “Do something about it.”

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Reed, who created the original HRT resource map, describes Gender Mapping Project’s map as “a targeted hit list of doctors, organizations, and clinics that serve LGBTQ+ people.”

“The context that it is placed under—locations that ‘groom’ kids or ‘mutilate them,’ which is extremely disgusting and misleading language for gender-affirming care—is clearly intended to stoke violence and action against these clinics,” she added.

Update: Following publication, Google removed the map for violating its policies. “After reviewing this map, we’ve found it to be in violation of our policies and have removed it from My Maps,” a company spokesperson told the Daily Dot via email on Friday. “We have clear policies that prohibit the use of My Maps for harassment, and when we find content and determine that it violates these policies, we remove it.”

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*First Published: Sep 27, 2022, 2:56 pm CDT