‘It’s a Huge Relief’: Trans ‘Shitposters’ on Bluesky Feel Safer Away From Twitter
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez remarked Tuesday on the social app Bluesky — a decentralized alternative to Twitter that sill has under 100,000 users — that she hadn’t tweeted in days. But she had posted to Bluesky (or “skeeted,” as some users like to say) more than a hundred times in the past week. “This is what happens when a platform feels safer and more fun!” she concluded.
AOC isn’t the only one having a better time on Bluesky than on Twitter: Her comments echoed what many users have said about the fledgling network since recently joining, most of all a large cluster affectionately termed the “Trans and Queer Shitposters.”
At the end of April, as Bluesky opened up to more of the general public, LGBTQ communities exploded onto the scene with anarchic posting fueled by a sense of liberation. These early adopters say they’re having more fun and feel free to be themselves without the harassment that has grown markedly worse on Twitter since Elon Musk’s contentious takeover. And in their mass migration, these marginalized groups are also enjoying a huge impact on the culture of the new app.
“I loved Twitter, I’ve posted on Twitter since 2013 on different accounts,” says Cassie Pritchard, a 33-year-old trans woman in Los Angeles who made plenty of real-life friends on the older app. But lately, she says, “it’s undeniable that I’m being pushed off this website by the fecal tsunami of transphobic psychopaths who do nothing but tweet about their hatred for trans people all day every day.” She points to a Twitter thread from this week where harassers were “trying their best to make me dysphoric (and failing).”
Bluesky, though, has an entirely different vibe. Although incubated inside Twitter at the direction of former CEO Jack Dorsey before it was spun out as a separate entity, with an interface that very much resembles a stripped-down version of your Twitter feed, it has yet to be overrun by toxic culture warriors. “It’s a huge relief!” Pritchard says, calling the platform “a lot more pleasant” and “just chill.” The experience stands in sharp contrast to Twitter, which forces her to “wade through this blood tide of murderous freaks just to hang out with my friends, every day.” (Notably, one Bluesky user who seemingly signed up for the app just to verbally abuse trans people was swiftly booted by the developers, with CEO Jay Graber posting, “Nobody has a right to access an invite-only closed beta, and if they are creating an account exclusively to jump in and harass people in replies they will be removed.”)
“My experience has been extremely positive,” says Fin, a nonbinary user who requested to be quoted by first name only. “It’s freeing to feel like you can post whatever you want without getting attacked. Without worrying that a tweet will do well and bring in people trying to attack you for anything they can think of.” Fin mentions the fun experience of helping to accelerate a phenomenon that Bluesky enthusiasts call the “Hellthread,” a bug in which a reply thread notifies every user in it each time a new post is added. As for Twitter, they say it’s not as if trans and queer people wanted to leave — but Musk’s paid blue-check system “empowered a lot of the worst people on the internet,” with their antagonistic tweets promoted by the algorithm: “We don’t want to have to run away to a safety bubble. We want to be with everyone else.”
“It’s common on Twitter to see ‘you will never be a woman’ under any post that a trans woman makes, no matter the context, and that has an effect on our existing dysphoria,” explains Sofia, a 20-year-old trans woman who also finds Bluesky promising. She notes how responsive the developers are to problems and suggestions. “Bluesky has lots of people in it who I’ve met on Twitter who are very important to me, and it’s nice to talk to them in a friendlier place.” She recalls a time she posted a memorial for a friend on Twitter, only to have a stranger misgender the deceased in a reply. “I haven’t seen anyone that cruel on Bluesky,” she adds.
“It’s insane how much better it’s been than Twitter like, on every possible level,” says Bugs Maytrix, a 27-year-old with a large following on the Musk-owned platform. “I think I’ve been on [Bluesky] for like just under a week, and I literally didn’t realize you could have social media where you weren’t looking over your shoulder to see what freaks are gonna come out of the woodwork.” They describe the atmosphere as “weirdly playful and goofy,” relating how they “‘played’ a game of Magic: The Gathering with a friend through skeets today, and it felt like, almost quaint in how innocent it was.”
Like their peers, Maytrix is cautiously optimistic that Bluesky can continue to be a haven for trans and queer social groups, but notes that its current small size and exclusivity may contribute to that feeling. “It kinda feels like setting up a dorm room when you’re like a sophomore in college,” they say. In any case, it’s a “reprieve” from Musk’s Twitter, where they’ve spent far less time lately: “The chuds are definitely emboldened, and seeing that Elon is like actively promoting shit like Libs of TikTok just feels like a bad omen.” Musk, who has a trans daughter, has occasionally amplified transphobic content, including from that far-right account. Under his leadership, Twitter removed protections for trans users from its Hateful Conduct Policy.
Arguably the most famous trans influencer of Bluesky is no longer on there, as she’s one of the first users to run afoul of that network’s ad hoc moderation. Hannah, 19, lasted all of a single day before her account was suspended because she told journalist Matt Yglesias, who has appeared to take up common cause with notable transphobes and endorsed dubious reporting around gender-affirming care, “WE ARE GOING TO BEAT YOU WITH HAMMERS.” (When Yglesias first appeared on the app, he was bombarded with a wide range of hostile replies stemming from his perceived transphobia.) The drama quickly became a cornerstone of Bluesky lore, and users continue to post joking threats that include the hammer emoji. After Hannah was removed along with a few others, Graber said that they would all be “welcome to join elsewhere in the federation and perhaps reconnect with us after we exit beta.”
“I had a ton of fun in the 24 hours or so I was on there,” Hannah tells Rolling Stone. “On [Twitter] I am pretty much guaranteed to get some vile transphobia in my replies, and it was kind of a relief to not worry about that.”
“I don’t have too many regrets about getting banned,” she says. “I think I said what a lot of trans people have wanted to say to the ‘just asking questions’ transphobic journalists, and I’m proud to get to do it in a way that lets [Yglesias] know how hated he is for that.” However, she adds, “I would like to be unbanned, and I promise to be on my best behavior from here on out.” Were she allowed back, she says her first skeet would be: “hey devs thanks for letting me back on I promise to not threaten violence against any more journalists :)”
Hannah says that while the developers are certainly on top of things at the moment, it may become difficult to prevent harassment as the user base expands. “But I feel more hopeful about Bluesky than basically any other social media I’ve used,” she says, citing the invite-only system that has largely kept the worst trolls off the platform while granting access to tons of her Twitter friends. That, along with silly campaigns — like the collective insistence on calling posts “skeets,” over some devs’ weary objections — “sold me on it as a fun place to be,” she says.
This uninhibited joy, which has inspired a dizzying proliferation of memes, slang, personal connections (and, yes, nudes) has been infectious, with rising demand for access to the party from those still on the outside; eBay listings for Bluesky invite codes range as high as $400. The cool factor has everything to do with the intentional and vibrant communities coalescing inside, from Black users to the trans and queer cluster. Suddenly, others may be realizing that these are the groups who bring social media to life.
“I mean, no offense,” as Fin puts it, “but a lot of the best shitposters are trans. The cis people might want to be wherever we end up.”