When Bruce Jenner announced to ABC’s Diane Sawyer that he identified as a woman in April 2015, it was a global tipping point for the transgender movement. Nearly 17 million people watched, and headlines, newscasts, and the internet exploded in its wake. Jenner, after all, is a member of the Kardashian clan, one of the wealthiest and most famous reality show families in the world. As one commentator observed, after Jenner’s interview, everyone knew a transgender person. The follow-up reality show I Am Cait, an LGBT activist noted, “put trans on the lips of everyone in the world.”
Jenner’s impact on the transgender debate is well documented. However, another recent story may prove to be as significant, and few adults are aware of it. In April 2023, Chris Tyson—a YouTube celebrity famous for appearing in the YouTube videos of Jimmy ‘MrBeast’ Donaldson—announced on X that the distinctive changes in his physical appearance noted by fans of the MrBeast channel were due to hormone replacement therapy, used by trans-identifying men to feminize their features. In July, he sat down with YouTuber Anthony Padilla, sporting makeup, long hair, and heels, to announce, “I am a woman!” Tyson told Padilla that he was now using ‘she/her’ pronouns and would go by ‘Kris.’
Tyson told the online audience of millions that when he’d begun growing out his hair and experimenting with his appearance, he was uncertain of his gender but knew he wasn’t “cisgender” and “needed the freedom to figure it out.” That explained why he’d announced earlier in the year that he and his wife Katie, purportedly a devout Christian, were divorcing. Previous photos show Tyson as a handsome young man married to a pretty wife with a gorgeous smile and an adorable little boy named Tucker; Katie’s Instagram page now features heartbreaking photographs of her toting their toddler alone.
It is worth noting that Katie has been forced into the awful position many women have faced over the past several years: that of a ‘trans widow.’ Her husband now insists that he is a woman and has sacrificed his family to pursue a journey of ‘self-expression’ as the world applauds his ‘courage,’ while the destruction of their son’s world—not to mention his own—is ignored. One viral but unsourced tweet alleged that Tyson’s son “misses his dad” and “constantly asks what happened to him and where did he go.” Tracy Shannon, who also lost her husband to gender ideology, replied on X:
I feel for her son. My sons cried themselves to sleep for years after their dad transitioned to look like a woman and live his fetish out loud. They won’t be allowed to properly [grieve] in this backwards society. They will be told their lack of acceptance is why they are struggling. They will be told to use preferred pronouns to make their father feel good and to ignore how this makes them feel. They will be coerced into lying, even though they were told lying is bad. Their grief will be ambiguous and unrecognized by society. For not celebrating what feels like a death or an alien imposter taking over their dad’s body, they will be ridiculed as bigots.
Tyson’s decision to identify as transgender is culturally significant because tens of millions of young people are following his story. The MrBeast YouTube channel, where Tyson has appeared alongside his friend Jimmy Donaldson for over a decade, is the second-most-subscribed channel on the platform with 229 million subscribers. Keeping Up With the Kardashians rarely broke two million viewers; MrBeast videos regularly rack up tens of millions of views, with some accruing well over 100 million. Donaldson has declared support for Tyson’s transition, responding to critics by saying that “the transphobia” is “starting to piss him off.” Tyson, dressed as a woman, still appears in videos (the most recent of which have 94, 98, and 145 million views, respectively).
It is difficult to overstate the phenomenal popularity of MrBeast and his cast of YouTube stars. Donaldson spends millions to create videos such as “$10,000 Every Day You Survive in a Grocery Store” (161 million views), “I Spent 50 Hours Buried Alive” (313 million), and “$465,000 Squid Game in Real Life!” (559 million). MrBeast is consistently cited as one of the top YouTube influencers in the world. Kids follow the channel obsessively. They relate to and feel as if they know the star and cast. They identify with them like older generations identified with TV characters—except the social media age has made it far more personal. Why is this important? Because online influencers are just that—influencers.