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An edited image used to claim that Michelle Obama is secretly transgender. The original footage differs from this supposed screenshot.[1]
Some dare call it
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What THEY don't want
you to know!
Sheeple wakers
Another thing that gets me are transvestigations, conspiracies about people's gender, like Justin Bieber being a girl and Miley Cyrus being a guy. It’s just so stupid.
—Cami Knodel, a Flat Earther, experiencing a sudden outbreak of common sense[2]

Transvestigation is a portmanteau of "trans investigation". It refers both to a rather unusual conspiracy theory, and the bizarre methodology of its adherents. It proposes that some group of people (possibly a large portion of the world population) are secretly transgender, sometimes as part of an Illuminati or New World Order plot.[3][4][5] Adherents to this belief, called transvestigators, can be found on various websites such as Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, 4chan, Twitter, Reddit, and blogging platforms.[4][6][7]

It often focuses on powerful or elite individuals, such as celebrities, historical figures, models, actors, or politicians.[3][8][9] Though, the accusation of being secretly transgender has also sometimes been levied against fellow conspiracy theorists, essentially as a means of characterizing another as an agent provocateur, or infiltrator.[4][5] When focused on "elite" groups, however, they are in their own terms exposing "Elite Gender Inversion" (EGI).[10][6] This can often tie into claims of Satanic ritual abuse, with conspiracy theories about "elites" secretly changing their gender and abusing children in exchange for influence in society.[11][7] As with Flat Earth, there can be a religious fundamentalist component: transvestigators sometimes cite Biblical passages to support their claims.[7]

Michelle Obama[edit]

One especially common target of the transvestigators' scrutiny has been Michelle Obama; they claim that she is a transgender woman. Some claim that her original name is "Michael Obama".[12][13] Alex Jones was involved with promoting this theory (because of course he was).[14][5][15] Also picked up by the right-wing clogosphere, the theory has been compared with birtherism and criticized for stereotyping African American women as masculine.[16][7] One recurring point made by Michelle Obama transvestigations is that there are no publicly available photos of her while she was visibly pregnant. Her two children, Malia and Sasha, were born in 1998 and 2001 respectively.[17][18]

Public interest in the Obama family would have been much lower at that time, since Barack was merely a state-level legislator in Illinois.[19] For her part, Michelle was working as an associate dean at the University of Chicago around this time, a title that wouldn't exactly have caused the paparazzi to follow her around.[20] Thus it's understandable that there are no publicly-sourced photos of Michelle from these two relatively brief periods.[note 1] It is likely that some exist in the private collections of the Obama family. They have released previously-unseen photos of their 1992 marriage ceremony multiple times before, demonstrating that such a privately-held collection exists.[21][22] Needless to say however, they do not need to compromise their personal privacy to please some Internet kooks who would just move the goalposts the second any such photos were released anyway.

Many of the other claims made regarding Michelle are based in complete fabrication or obvious misrepresentation, and make the argument about missing pregnancy photos look positively intellectual by comparison. Digitally altered photos appear to be a recurring theme: examples include fake photos of her with a beard,[23] a crotch bulge in her dress,[1][24] or an excessively masculinized appearance.[25][26] Another "proof" cited: videos of Barack Obama referring to somebody named "Michael". Supposedly, these clips are of him referring to Michelle.[27] In at least two cases, these clips were confirmed to have been entirely misrepresented. In one clip of a 2015 speech, he was quoting a woman who spoke about her husband named Michael.[28][29] In a second clip, this time of a 2011 speech, he was referring to the son of a former US Navy admiral, who is likewise named Michael.[30][31]

A rather peculiar insinuation advanced by some transvestigators is the idea that Michelle must be transgender because she utilized in vitro fertilization (IVF) to achieve pregnancy, after experiencing a miscarriage.[32] This is a complete non sequitur unless you believe the elites were hiding technology capable of making trans women pregnant in the 1990s.[note 2] This may also be a result of confusing IVF for surrogacy, a completely separate method of having children. Both methods are utilized by many cisgender women.

Michelle Obama appears to be where the transvestigators really got their start on the Internet, although there were lower-profile rumors about other celebrities for many years prior to this.[33][34] It likely served as a "gateway" to transvestigating other famous people. If you already accept that one "elite" is secretly transgender as part of an elaborate cover-up, it isn't a big leap to consider there may be others. Once you've bought that, you may begin to wonder if there is a nefarious reason or purpose behind all these elites secretly being transgender. The approximate origin of the current incarnation of this idea that Michelle Obama is secretly transgender (and perhaps the whole wider "elite gender inversion" theory, although in truth its exact origins may be unknown) seems to be a joke made by Joan Rivers in 2014.[35] Alex Jones insinuated that Michelle may be transgender shortly after Rivers's comment. He claimed that she has "shoulders that are wider than a man's, which physiologically doesn't happen".[36]

Rivers died the same year, and conspiracy theorists concluded that she was killed for telling the truth. This appears to have lent more momentum to the theory.[37][7][note 3] However, online videos claimed Michelle was secretly trans at least as far back as February 2013.[38][39] According to Lead Stories, an IFCN-affiliated fact-checking outfit, edited photos of her with a crotch bulge have existed since at least 2010.[1]

Further examples[edit]

A typical transvestigation "proof" image, attempting to analyze Stalin's quadriceps ("Q") angle.[note 4]

Instances of transvestigation are countless: nobody is spared from their detection. Not J. Robert Oppenheimer,[40] Lady Gaga,[41][42] Anne Frank,[4] Arnold Schwarzenegger,[9] Kyle Rittenhouse,[43][44] Elon Musk,[4] Joseph Stalin,[9] nor even J.K. Rowling.[4] Adolf Hitler (also known as "CLITLER" by some[45]) was exposed as a "Gay & Transgender Man With Fake Mustache" in one enlightening video.[46] Allegedly, even the well-known drag queen RuPaul is actually "a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman".[9] Some even believe that cisgender people are nearly extinct. This can be proven by photographing strangers in public and "analyzing" them.[4][3]

In one particularly unhinged case, the Flat Earth community chased off one of their own adherents when she was falsely "exposed" as transgender. She provided them with photos of herself in childhood as a girl, but even that wasn't enough — they claimed she had been a boy who took the place of the girl in the photos after her death.[5]

The first lady of France, Brigitte Macron, was accused of having been born "Jean-Michel Trogneux" by far-right French activists.[47][6][48] This was despite the fact that she had given birth to several children — the transvestigators claimed that another woman was the true mother.[49] She later took legal action against those who spread the rumor.[48][50]

In 2021, British national Benjamin Glynn was convicted in Singapore of breaking laws that mandated mask-wearing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.[51] Publicity around the case drew attention to his social media, which documented his belief that just about every public figure in the world is trans; including everyone in Hollywood and the entire British Royal Family. According to Glynn, Elton John is a trans man and gave birth to Princes William and Harry because their mother Princess Diana was also trans.[52]

In early April 2023, transvestigators claimed that former Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe's cis girlfriend, Erin Darke, must be trans due her height (she is taller than Radcliffe, who is 5'5") and facial structure.[53][54] This was despite the couple having announced that Darke was pregnant with their first child only two weeks previously.[55][56] They welcomed the baby by the end of April.[57]


Kenough? With that clavicle angle? Please, Ryan.

Transvestigator methods (such as they are) of ascertaining whether somebody is transgender, often involve a "radical oversimplification of the human skeleton" — photographs of a person are sometimes compared with simple geometric shapes or lines as "evidence".[4][3] That is, someone's body is compared with a "universal ideal" of man or woman's bodily ratios and shapes. If they don't line up, something must be fishy — an astounding lack of comprehension in how wide the range of different human anatomies can be — and they may even be (mis)aligned for reasons as silly as "the transvestigator doesn't understand how geometry and photographic distortions like camera angles can clash", since they aren't actually in the room to be measured. That is to take just one of the lower-hanging fruit among the many false premises their conclusions often rely on. The diagrams and "explanatory" videos created by transvestigators in illustration of this method have received (often derisive, satirical, or critical) attention online for their surreal, sometimes even creepily-objectifying qualities.[58]

Sometimes transvestigators will use more conventional, informal stereotypes about what makes a man or a woman in their analysis. This can be paired with the method described above. Something as simple as a woman having an Adam's apple, or having wider shoulders than the average woman, can be given as absolute proof that she is actually a man.[59][5] This fails to grasp the existence of outliers, or even just how averages work — an average almost inherently has people within the group being examined who do not meet it. In the case of gender averages, there are literally billions of people who do not meet the exact averages for any given trait. Some of the gender stereotypes applied by transvestigators as proof can be quite extreme, e.g. a man with "bright" eyes must be a woman; a woman resting her arm on somebody's shoulder must be a man (yes, really).[60] Failing to uphold any kind of real process or evidence though, some opt to simply trust their intuition.[4]

Impact and influences[edit]

Transvestigation can have a detrimental effect on its adherents, with some accusing family, friends, or acquaintances of being in on the transgender plot.[4][7] Even some elected politicians have promoted the theory that Michelle Obama is transgender.[3]

In recent years, female cisgender athletes have been scrutinized for being "too masculine". As a result, at least one girl was investigated in an official regard after false claims that she is transgender.[3][61] This incident has been compared with transvestigation conspiracy theories that have emerged online.[3] Similarly, cisgender women have been accosted in public for trying to use the bathroom due to something as simple as wearing a short haircut.[10]

Thus, while it may be easy to dismiss transvestigators as a small group of Internet kooks, perhaps they aren't so far from the mainstream these days. As such, Gawker described how a paranoid defense of "true womanhood" against transgender women is linked to the transvestigator mindset.[10] Otherwise, transvestigation conspiracy theories have been observed in action as a gateway into other conspiracy movements such as QAnon and the anti-gender movement.[6] Workers' Liberty, a socialist outlet, observed similarities between transvestigation and antisemitic conspiracy theories.[8] Additionally, their methodology has been compared to phrenology[40][8][7] — an Adam's apple is just a bump near the head, right?

Possible cause[edit]

Based on a 2022 survey, Americans have an insanely disproportionate view of United States demographics. Respondents guessed, on average, that transgender people are about 21% of the US population (in reality it's more like 1%, if even that). Even when weighted, the respondents' estimate was 12%. This kind of response wasn't exclusive to transgender people: similarly disproportionate estimates were given, for instance, of military veterans, Jews, atheists, Native Americans, and millionaires.[62] But maybe this is why some transvestigators believe there are transgender people hiding behind every corner: poor understanding of demographics.

See also[edit]

  • Baphomet, who some transvestigators believe is a subject of worship by transgender elites[6][7]
  • Gaydar
  • Outing — what a transvestigation "exposé" would be if it was accurate
  • Passing
  • Reptilians
  • "Stealth" and "being in the closet" — very rare scenarios in which some people actually do conceal being transgender (albeit, boringly, not as a Satanic Illuminati plot)
  • Toupée fallacy, which must have broken transvestigators' brains

External links[edit]


  1. Keep in mind that there is not even a visible belly bump for the entire pregnancy period.
  2. Which would not be entirely novel. Some conspiracy theories do propose that knowledge of existing technologies is intentionally obscured by the government or other powers that be. See free energy suppression for one example.
  3. This resembles the Clinton body count family of conspiracy theories.
  4. Stalin experienced some personal health ailments throughout his life. Some of these, like having been born with webbed toes, caused him to display an unusual gait.


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