In May 2018, the Pinterest insights team, which tracks how people use the platform, started noticing a remarkable trend. It wasn’t an influx of dads pinning spiders made out of Oreos. No, people were using the platform to search for information about “transgender transitions”—a lot of people.
Between May 2018 and August 2019, searches for the term spiked by 3919%, says Chuin Phang, inclusion programs manager at Pinterest.
“And this was not a lone incident," Phang tells NewNowNext. “There were other types of searches. We've seen an increase in things like name pronoun changes, hormone therapy, transgender-related style searches, supporting loved ones who are transitioning.”
Transgender captions have jumped by 621%, according to the company, and searches for “nonbinary fashion plus size” have gone up by 196%, with millions of users searching for things like name changes and gender-affirming surgeries. Top trans-related searches on Pinterest include “transgender quotes inspiration,” “transgender pride,” “transgender facts,” and “transgender art,” the company says.
Phang says Pinterest is not exactly sure why the platform has suddenly become a hub for trans content. He believes media popularity of trans narratives may have contributed to the trend.
One explanation may also be that transgender people face elevated levels of discrimination in health care, and continue to endure rapid rollbacks of nondiscriminiation protections under the Trump administration. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 23% of transgender Americans didn’t see a doctor when they needed to because they feared being mistreated as a trans person.
The trend of people seeking information on trans health and wellness represents a departure for Pinterest, traditionally thought of as a go-to platform for fashion inspiration, crafting and DIY how-tos, and recipe ideas.
“Those are still very important trends and user bases that we have and continue to support on our platform," Phang says. "But as Pinterest has grown over the years, we're definitely seeing more people, and as a result, naturally and organically, the types of things people are looking for have also diversified and grown along the way.”
That diversification is something Pinterest is eager to support, he adds.
“When we look at our mission, which is to bring everyone inspiration to create the lives that they love, that the word ‘everyone’ truly includes everyone, truly includes all communities, and the trans community is a very important part of that,” Phang says.
To that end, the company has publicly released its policy on trans and gender nonconforming employees. The 12-page document pulls best practices from advocacy groups like GLAAD and HRC and coaches staff on names and pronouns, gender transition in the workplace, medical confidentiality, and not policing co-workers' use of gendered bathrooms.
Phang says he hopes other companies will steal Pinterest's policy, even if it's not a perfect, end-all be-all guide.
“We hope that we've put out something that's meaningful and useful for other folks," he adds.