MrBeast’s Chris Tyson Went On Hormones. Then Came Transphobic Conspiracy Theories
You don’t rack up 140 million YouTube subscribers without winning yourself some toxic fans. Jimmy Donaldson — a.k.a. MrBeast — has his share despite a personal brand built around positivity, as well as goofy, expensive stunts.
One of the most-watched creators online, Donaldson styles his MrBeast channel as an institution of philanthropic fun, staging massive cash giveaway competitions that double as viral videos. But all the money in the world can’t shield you from the culture wars, and now MrBeast fans are split regarding his friend and collaborator Chris Tyson.
Tyson, 26 and a childhood friend of Donaldson, revealed last week that they’re on gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy, and their two Twitter accounts now say they go by any pronouns. The announcement came in reaction to a viral tweet comparing an older photo of Tyson to their appearance in a more recent video, with the caption “bro wtf happened.” In a quote-tweet, Tyson replied, “HRT, and it’s only been 2 months.” Tyson went on to state the importance of letting people “make informed decisions about their own bodies.”
While YouTube, Donaldson, fellow members of the MrBeast crew, and many other creators expressed their support, Tyson also had to deal with a wave of transphobic trolls, and responded to one who claimed that his son was losing a “father figure.” (“This is just more dog whistling that somehow trans and [gender nonconforming] folks aren’t safe around kids,” Tyson tweeted.) For someone of Tyson’s internet fame, this kind of backlash to coming out is inevitable. But the schism in the MrBeast community over Tyson’s gender presentation had begun weeks earlier, thanks to generalized transphobia and homophobia among some fans.
Earlier this year, comments attributing Tyson’s more feminine look to a so-called “Karl Effect” proliferated on TikTok. Karl Jacobs is another member of the MrBeast team who started out as a cameraman before being promoted to an on-screen regular, and has regularly appeared in videos since 2020. Proponents of the “Karl Effect” baselessly believe that Jacobs is persuading others in this group to become more effeminate, noting that he is often seen wearing jewelry and flashing his painted nails. (Jacobs, for his part, has said he is “somewhere on the spectrum” of asexuality.) Fans upset with Tyson’s new gender presentation have tended to blame Jacobs, citing the made-up “effect.”
By the end of January, Jake Weddle, a former MrBeast collaborator, was compelled to respond to such comments. Weddle criticized those complaining that Karl had influenced Tyson’s identity or sexuality — Tyson came out as bisexual in 2020 — and dismissed the idea of a “Karl Effect.” “Karl is just expressing himself the way he wants to, and I think Chris is just comfortable expressing himself the way he wants to,” he said.
Nevertheless, problematic analyses of the relationship between Jacobs and Tyson continued to gain millions of views on TikTok. In March, Tyson acknowledged the trend, sharing a clip in which a narrator says, “Karl is tearing the MrBeast team apart… and turning them gay?”
“This is so cringe but I unironically find it to be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” Tyson wrote. Later in the month, he cited the “Karl Effect” meme and dismissed speculation that the two were dating. (Neither Tyson nor Jacobs immediately replied to request for further comment.)
The videos kept coming after Tyson confirmed they were receiving HRT, with some fans complaining that they missed the “old” Chris. One TikTok, with 4.4 million views and nearly half a million likes, purports to show MrBeast collaborator Chandler Hallow interacting uncomfortably with Tyson during a livestream, with a transphobic caption added to the footage. (Neither has commented on the clip, which does not appear to indicate any real friction between them whatsoever.) Some reactions have been extreme: on a popular TikTok that repurposes an audio clip from Breaking Bad to insult Tyson and suggest that he was ruining MrBeast content, one user commented, “heres an idea, if we can get Jake back, maybe he can beat some damn sense into Chris, wake him up from his bs.” (The “Jake” alluded to here is likely Donaldson’s friend Jake Franklin, known as “Jake the Viking,” and not Jake Weddle.)
And in the past few days, transphobic fans of MrBeast content have garnered significant engagement with negative replies to tweets in which Tyson shows off his gender-fluid look. A representative for Donaldson did not respond to a question about whether he had any plans to address followers who have tried to shame Tyson.
Still, Tyson has received many positive responses across social media, and was heartened by people’s interest in learning more about gender-affirming care. “I was super nervous to be public about this [because] I’ve always been so private when it comes to this, but seeing conversations started [because] of me is amazing,” they tweeted last week.
Tyson’s detractors harassing them through a lens like the “Karl Effect” closely aligns with unfounded, far-right fears about how LGBTQ groups are supposedly “grooming” others into changing their sexual or gender identity — particularly kids. This moral panic has been used to justify a wide range of anti-gay and anti-trans legislation at the state level. Young viewers who buy into the concept that Tyson has fallen under the influence of gender nonconforming friends may be on their way to the harmful belief, parroted among extremists, that queer and trans folks have been “brainwashed.”
Thankfully, Tyson has Donaldson and Jacobs standing up for them as the trolls continue to attack. However this schism plays out within the fanbase in the weeks ahead, the crew itself seems as tight as ever.