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Welcome to the surreal, supportive humor of Reddit’s trans ‘sh*tposting’ subreddit
Prepare for Happy Gay Sounds.
“As a little boy, bullies called me a girl. Now bullies call me a man. You can’t win,” a 2016 tweet from trans porn star Bailey Jay reads. “Only I do, because I have a killer rack and a big dick.”
Jay’s tweet is legendary with trans Twitter users; it’s the kind of snarky joke that mirrors how trans women talk about themselves IRL in queer spaces. But Jay’s tweet doesn’t just reside on Twitter. Over on Reddit, a screengrab of Jay’s tweet is the sixth-most popular post on a subreddit called r/traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns (or r/traa for short).
Submitted under the headline “MtF_IRL” (a tongue-in-cheek reference to both the subreddit r/me_irl and the antiquated term “male-to-female transsexual”), the post holds over 5,500 upvotes and 100 comments, many of which are from other trans women joining in on the fun.
“Fucking goals,” one user posts.
“Bailey and Samus are my pantheon,” quips another, referencing Metroid’s Samus Aran.
A third user points out that she’s halfway to being like Jay, but she still needs “the killer rack.”
“$5k should do ya,” another responds.
Jay’s tweet is funny, but it’s also cathartic: trans women grow up in a world that’s constantly using our transness against us. Per usual in trans spaces, dark humor is an inroad to discussing serious topics that impact trans women every day of their lives.
“If you’re [assigned male at birth], people will call you a female to insult you—as a kid in the playground and as an adult if you don’t do/believe XYZ… up until you present as female,” one user explains, earning 400 upvotes. “Then no matter what you do, you’re a man to them. It’s fascinating (misogynistic and transphobic) logic.”
On any given day, that’s r/traa in a nutshell. It’s sometimes serious, sometimes hilarious, but always relatable. It’s Reddit’s official trans shitposting subreddit, so to speak, and within the online trans community, it’s legendary.
— traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns (@traaaaaaannnnns) January 30, 2019
— traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns (@traaaaaaannnnns) September 24, 2018
— traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns (@traaaaaaannnnns) January 30, 2019
It’s a bit of a stereotype that trans people are Extremely Online, but there’s some truth to the idea. For many of us that grew up in the ’90s and 2000s, the internet was our queer refuge. The offline world told us being trans was sick, wrong, and disgusting. So we built our sense of community on sites like DeviantART, Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, and LiveJournal.
The more time we spent online, the more we picked up its sense of humor. Some of us started on 4chan and branched out to Tumblr or Twitter. Others got their start on Something Awful and migrated to the r/ShitRedditSays subs. Either way, we learned how humor changes from website to website and how every community has its own vibe. We figured out what is and isn’t funny in online spaces and catered our jokes to those tastes. We also learned how to express ourselves through memes, packaging our happiness, sadness, and anxieties into anime GIFs and reaction images.
That experience isn’t just in r/traa’s DNA. It’s why the subreddit works the way it does.
Subreddit co-founder E1337Kat, also known as Ellie, created the subreddit with Redditor TroubleEntendre in 2012, according to a farewell post Ellie penned last year. In an interview with the Daily Dot, Ellie explained that r/traa kicked off after users on r/transgender wanted to regularly post memes to share with other trans users. Because this would be a point of contention in the r/transgender community, trans users looked to r/gaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy, a subreddit in which users post memes and shitposts about being queer, as an inspiration for a trans memes subreddit. Soon enough, r/traa was born.
“The first mod was some cis person, and then I asked to be a mod. After I was made a mod, the other mods stepped down for some reason I don’t recall and left the subreddit in my capable hands,” Ellie told the Daily Dot. “Being the owner of a fancy pants new fangled subreddit with only like five subscribers, I felt it necessary to inform the masses of the subreddit. I posted about it on r/gaaaayyy, r/transgendercirclejerk, and probably on other memes I saw including rare trans memes that made it to the front page from the defaults.”
Half a decade later, over 75,000 users subscribe to the community. For many trans people, it’s a space where they can be themselves, a point that r/traa mod AnalogFresh stressed when interviewed by the Daily Dot.
“I think r/traa’s main appeal is it is a rare place on the internet where trans folks can come laugh, vent, meet others, and share experiences without dealing with the normal bs trans people have to put up with day in and day out,” AnalogFresh, also known as Corinne, explained.
Take Redditor DigitalPolice’s submission “I feel called out.” The post shows a stack of increasingly bigger blocks lined up like dominoes, with the largest being “Overthrowing capitalism” and the smallest being “wanting to be cute in thigh highs.” Destroying late capitalism, it turns out, comes down to trans girls looking cute.
“This is me but i took the route to agorism instead,” one user replies.
Then there’s one of r/traa’s most popular posts, “Transition timelines.” That meme riffs on before-after transition timelines commonly posted by trans people on the internet. The submission’s image says “2006 vs 2019” and shows a side-by-side photo of Bobby Hill from King of the HIll crying while sloppily putting on makeup. 13 years later, Bobby has become his cousin Luanne Platter, pictured with a “VOTE COMMUNIST” sign.
“Fully automatic luxury trans propane communism,” one user writes. Another says: “God I wish that were me.”
Memes for trans women and trans femmes largely dominate r/traa, but the subreddit isn’t just built for trans girls. One of r/traa’s most popular memes, “just in case y’all wanna go on 4chan,” features a greentext story in which a trans man tells 4chan’s /pol/ that he is a trans woman so they will “aggressively gender me as male,” to his amusement.
Another post shows an age comparison between a pre-transition trans man at 10-years-old and him at 20. In that meme, he goes from “I hate boys” to “why dont i have a penis.” Like r/traa’s trans women, trans men get just as much out of the subreddit’s shitposting antics too.
Corinne believes r/traa’s laid-back attitude doesn’t just let trans folks vent, it also helps questioning trans people figure themselves out. Because transitioning and coming out is such a nervewracking process, getting the chance to joke about it and talk about it gives people in the early stages of their transitioning a support network that they may desperately need.
“The relatable trans memes are a way for people who are just beginning to explore their gender identity to see if they relate to anything while having a lightheartedness about it,” Corinne explained to the Daily Dot. “As generally exploring one’s gender identity is a really difficult path to go down, but I feel if you can laugh while you’re figuring yourself out it helps take away some of that stress.”
Many r/traa posters try to outright support pre-transition users questioning their gender, whether through memes or supportive comments. Look no further than the all-time most popular submission shared on r/traa, from a teenage trans woman who goes by the Reddit username Amekyras. That post riffs on a search phrase commonly typed into Google by closeted trans people: “am I trans quiz.”
In the post, Amekyras asks users to upvote the meme so it is “the first result on Google Images when a kid tries to figure it out.”
“Kid, I gotta hand it to you,” the meme reads, with text in the trans flag’s colors. “If you googled that, the answer is ‘probably.’ Now, sort this sub by top. See if you associate with anything. Enjoy!”
For the record, the upvote campaign was a success. After I searched the phrase “am i trans quiz” in Google Images in Google Chrome’s Incognito Mode, the search term immediately brought up the post as a first result.
Corinne calls the submission her “personal favorite.”
“Because it is a great introduction to the sub for someone beginning to explore their gender identity,” Corinne said. “Since I always look at the top posts whenever I check out a new subreddit I’m glad that this post pops up first under top of r/traa.”
This seems to be a running theme on r/traa; its memes aren’t just cathartic, they can also help people come out. Take, for example, “egg” jokes, a common topic that Corinne calls “emblematic of trans experiences.” For the uninitiated, an “egg” is a pre-transition trans person who shows signs of gender dysphoria but doesn’t consciously realize it. The phrase was originally coined by Zoey Wolfe after she would repeatedly hook up with pre-transition trans women on Grindr, leading her to call herself “the brood mother cuz I’m hatching eggs.”
These days, “egg” has a much more wholesome undertone, and the phrase lives on in part because it lets trans people own their own transition stories. For instance, many trans women believe there are noticeable patterns among other trans women in their egg years, such as growing their hair out or largely befriending women. Memes don’t just let trans folks bond over these patterns, they can lead to an egg becoming self-aware and “hatching” on r/traa.
“Fuck it. I’m calling it. This egg has shattered. I’m a girl,” one r/traa user’s post says. “Thanks to all of you for the validation and helping me realize the insecurity and denial is all part of it.”
— traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns (@traaaaaaannnnns) July 28, 2018
— traaaaaaannnnnnnnnns (@traaaaaaannnnns) June 28, 2018
It’s easy to boil r/traa down to merely “trans shitposting,” but there’s a much bigger appeal to the subreddit. It’s a place where trans people can take their life stories and recast them into relatable memes that make them feel seen and heard by other trans folks. Reddit’s r/traa isn’t about farming for karma, it’s about giving trans men, women, nonbinary, and questioning folks a safe place to express themselves.
“This subreddit is my new family! Thanks for being [there] when they weren’t!” one trans woman’s post says. “Love you all <3”
“I love you too, OP,” another user replies, “but most of all I love the person reading this.”
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Waypoint, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone's Glixel, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.