CW: Screen shots of anti-trans statements and disinformation
Meet Chelsea Fowler, farrier, dog mom of Chester the golden retriever, anti-trans bigot and conspiracy theorist.
Chester the dog with anti-trans bigot Chelsea
Chelsea photographs and videos attendees of the 'Bigotry is Bad for Business' Protest on March 27, 2023
How Anti-Trans Hate Operates
On Monday, March 27th, friends and allies of transgender Oklahomans gathered in front of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and eventually Griffin Media to protest the silence of business and media interests on the anti-trans and anti-LGBT legislation sweeping through Oklahoma. Especially when those interests benefit from a positive and inclusive Oklahoma!
Trans Love Oklahoma organized the protest around the theme “Bigotry is Bad for Business.” 99% of the signs and statements reflected that. It was peaceful, positive and well attended by the community with many media members present. The protest lasted a couple hours, ending in good spirits and positive media coverage. Oklahoma Progress Now also attended and provided some coverage of the event.
However, hours after the protest, community members began to receive online harassment accusing protest participants of being the Nashville mass shooter. After researching the origins of the harassment the source was found to be local anti-trans activist, Chelsea Fowler who had taken pictures at the protest and tagged anti-trans bigots across the country.
Chelsea, in a red sweater and wide brim hat pulled low over her face, sweetly asked people who attended the protest if she could take their picture or video. Obviously, it’s a public place and it isn’t illegal to film people. However, Chelsea felt compelled to use the protest pictures she obtained in good faith to upload the images and videos to her transphobic Twitter account, and tag anti-trans extremists on the state and national level.
One photo in particular was of a protester who briefly attended holding a sign saying, “Protect Trans Rights… or else” with rifles on it in trans flag colors. This photo went viral and was quickly tied to the Nashville shooting happening around the same time. Many right wing extremists began to dishonestly claim this OKC protester was the Nashville shooter. Chelsea’s attempt to get bigot clout quickly backfired when people used the photos to create a false "trans people dangerous and violent" narrative.
Oklahoma Progress Now is especially concerned with this recent narrative because transgender individuals are four times as likely to be victims of a violent crime. These harmful narratives only serve to increase and perpetuate harm towards the transgender and non binary community. This is especially malicious to transgender Oklahomans who are in the middle of fighting bigoted anti-trans legislation. We see this increase in transgender hate as a continuation and escalation of highly organized, well-funded anti-trans political campaigns designed to get Republican politicians elected.
Horses, Dogs, Virulent Transphobia
Let us introduce you to Chelsea, why she might have done this, and what she might have learned from it.
According to public property records, Chelsea lives in the $250,000 side house of her parent’s $2.5M mansion on their 25 acres estate in Choctaw, Oklahoma. She’s a farrier by trade, trust fund kid by birth and exploits fur baby, Chester the golden retriever, for clicks and likes. Chelsea seems to have had the normal upper crust Okie existence of cosplaying farmer while mostly being a wealthy lady that doesn’t need to engage in actual labor. Her dad appears to be some sort of doctor that hit it big in Colorado before retiring back to Oklahoma.
Her main social media accounts are normal, boring about-town type stuff and posts about a business start up of some sort. Her golden retriever Chester is a local celebrity with his own fan page and many other animals grace her Instagram in post, after post. Where things start to go off the rails is over on Twitter. Chelsea had a lot of tweets under an account that, unlike most right-wing MAGA accounts, is not well disguised as her personal account.
The account has tweeted thousands of times and what we could see before they started deleting everything, locked their account and then unlocked it, is that it is a nonstop stream of anti-trans rhetoric, bigoted opinions and conspiracies from the biggest names in the business.
Here are some examples, but it goes on and on like this.
These accounts she frequently retweets and interacts with are loaded with demagoguery and disinformation. They say disgusting and untrue things about trans people, their medical care and are rooted in hatred.
Despite what you may read on the Internet, transgender people have existed throughout human history. They have always sought to live authentically as their preferred gender and struggled with societies that seek to repress that.
The medical advances of the mid-late 20th century that benefited all of us have also developed options for transgender people to live safer, more fulfilled lives. Every major medical association approves a variety of gender affirming care treatments of many types and across age groups. The regret for surgeries, the most controversial talking point, is extremely low. Regret for gender transition surgery is lower than many other mainstream surgeries. Surgeries, especially on minors, are extremely rare. Hormone therapies have been around since the 1980’s and are well understood medical treatments. The mental health outcomes of gender affirming care are well studied and positive.
National Homelessness Statistics for LGBTQ Youth
- The Voices of Youth Count study found that LGBTQ young adults ages 18 to 25 had more than twice the risk of being homeless than their heterosexual peers. The Voices of Youth Count Study, University of Chicago, Chapin Hall, 2017.
- LGBTQ youth made up about 20% of young adults who reported homelessness. Matthew H. Morton et al., Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America, University of Chicago, Chapin Hall, 2018.
- A study involving LGBTQ young adults in seven cities found that the most common reason youth became homeless was due to being kicked out or asked to leave the home of a parent, relative, foster home, or group home. Jama Shelton et al., “Homelessness and Housing Experiences among LGBTQ Young Adults in Seven U.S. Cities,” Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, vol. 20, no. 3, 2018.
- 27% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth who are homeless reported exchanging sex for basic needs compared to 9% of non-LGBTQ youth who reported having to exchange sex for basic needs. The Voices of Youth Count Study, University of Chicago, Chapin Hall, 2017.
- 62% of LGBTQ youth report being physically harmed while experiencing homelessness while 47% of non-LGBTQ youth reported being physically harmed while homeless. The Voices of Youth Count Study, University of Chicago, Chapin Hall, 2017.
Transgender people, especially youth, suffer exclusion and harm in real and material ways in our society and that was before we started targeting them with bigoted legislation.
The Protest and the Aftermath
On the day in question, Chelsea set up trans activists for harassment and doxing by attending the protest, getting close up pictures of individuals and then snitch tagging every extremist she could. Something she later finds she doesn’t like very much when the tables are turned! Obviously, it’s a public protest and anyone could do that but this event was modestly attended, many were part of the affected community and it was all done in a spirit of raising awareness.
Chris Elston was the main account tagged. "Billboard Chris" is a noted transphobe that has made it his grift to target and troll trans people and protests. He explicitly targeted the person from the OKC protest with the provocative sign but did it with disinformation (implying they were violent) and tried to dox them (posted their full name and dead name).
Elston reposted all of Chelsea’s photos, with completely false context like the above (nobody from Portland came to OKC for any trans rights protest). Other accounts quickly grabbed Chelsea’s now deleted tweet and said it was the Nashville shooter. It was a mess from the jump. But dishonest actors like Chelsea and Chris get it going all the faster.
Obviously, conservatives have been at this work for a while. Every year or so, a different group gets targeted with ridiculous and extreme rhetoric and demagoguery in an attempt to instill fear in the hearts of voters that these are the real problems that face our country. While it was once Fox News, the National Review and few ultra conservative think tanks, now it is an entire ecosystem of influencers, far-right organizations and big time posters that can take narratives, strip them of context and pour in whatever conspiracy is their particular schtick. All ultimately targeting Democrats, liberals or leftists.
Humans have always been susceptible to conspiracy theories but with the dominance of social media and the total abdication by platforms, the government and even many in the media themselves to effectively police this stuff, regular folks are forced to constantly try to separate fact from fiction.
False information is no excuse for what people like Chelsea do and believe but the harm of it is very real and the fact we are passing laws explicitly targeting a marginalized group with bans around what they do with their own bodies in ways we would NEVER police a cis person is terrifying.
Local groups like the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA), switched on a dime sometime in the last couple years, presumably once the check cleared, and started posting nonsense about porn in schools and transgender “ideology.” Nearly every culture has a term for a third or nonbinary gender but the idiots at OCPA and countless right-wing think tanks across the country all determined this was a new "woke" thing a few years ago when Trump lost. Anti-trans is the next target of the right after demonizing immigrants and Black people turning its propaganda machine on transgender people for this upcoming election cycle.
What Accountability Looks Like
Ultimately, Chelsea came to the protest with hate in her heart to try and find something she could race back and give to much larger, extremely bigoted accounts to target trans people. Now, Chelsea immediately got fact checked on the whole Nashville shooter business and came clean. But the damage was done, people who she took pictures of, had to delete their social media and faced intense targeting. Billboard Chris, an account with more than 100,000 followers, posted the full name and called for the viral trans protester to be doxed and harassed. Their image was viewed millions of times, mostly by people drowning in transphobia. Doxing a trans person in a deeply red state such as Oklahoma significantly increases the likelihood of potential violence towards that individual and the risk of employment and housing loss.
Interestingly, Chelsea reached out to Oklahoma Progress Now almost immediately when she realized we had identified her as the photographer AND found her social media accounts. It took us less than two hours to find all her social media, her parents, house, etc. While she was happy to do this to other folks, she was NOT happy to have it happen to her!
Before you read these messages, understand the context. Chelsea Fowler scheduled herself to drive 30 minutes from Choctaw, Oklahoma to downtown OKC to attend a protest of 100-150 people fighting for their rights to healthcare access and peacefully using their first amendment right to assemble in protest.
Next, she took nearly a dozen pictures and videos and posted them online, tagging not one or two but dozens of right-wing accounts and Oklahoma politicians (like Stitt and Ryan Walters) trying to get attention for her work. She offered ZERO context about what the protest was about, who was there or what was being said. It was just chum for the sharks. Nobody forced her to do any of this (as far as we know), she used her own free will and ample time for her anti-trans hobby.
While it is common for bigots and bullies to claim to be the real victims, nobody is forcing Chelsea to read and share nonsense online, believe conspiracies about trans children being secretly harmed and take action on it. Her personal experience aside, this false narrative about transgender youth is not even close to what the average trans child experiences, which is more often marked by bigotry, exclusion and abandonment, than any sort of medical treatment and support.
It should also be obvious from these posts and messages that this is NOT a person who should be crafting public policy. Her tenuous grasp on reality, belief in conspiracies, paranoia and obsession with transgender people seems really bad. Being annoyed that people express themselves in a way you don't like is one thing, advocating to take away their rights and trying to tie them to gun violence or other forms of targeted hatred is another. Chelsea is not the victim, she is the perpetrator.
These laws ban transgender people from getting medical care or force them to leave the state to get it. We let kids do all sorts of things to adjust their appearance or take medications that affect their performance in sports, brain function or other physical activities but being able to determine your gender preference is the one these bigots will police with the full force of the law. It’s none of their business! As Chelsea says, she’s a nobody, certainly not someone qualified to determine how every trans person should live their life.
People need to understand that this kind of obsession with trans people is dangerous. It only goes to bad places. We do not need laws getting between children, families and their doctors. We definitely shouldn’t be policing adults from being able to get the care they want.
Nobody is doing expensive, irreversible surgeries or unnecessary treatments on children in Oklahoma. Our state does not even have a doctor who does bottom surgery (the closest being Austin, TX or Denver, CO). All transgender healthcare is done at a great cost and lengthy consideration. You can not wake up one day and suddenly get on hormones or receive surgery. There are layers of approvals from different healthcare providers, insurers and wait times before you can begin treatment. There is plenty of science and studies on best practice medicine backing transgender people. Trans healthcare is a personal body autonomy choice between people and their healthcare professionals and has no room for interference by busy body bigots. We hope Chelsea Fowler (and the Oklahoma Republican Legislature) takes some time to log off, examine the hate in her heart and find peace.
About the author:
Nick is a cisgender, white male who believes trans rights are human rights. Follow him at @nickforok on Twitter.