The results of 'The Chris Chan Experiment' should horrify us all

by Jennifer Aubrin

On the 5th of August 2021, Chris Chan, accused of incest with his 80-year-old mother, stood in court, stamped his feet and declared, “I’m famous on the internet”. While most readers will be familiar with the latest saga in Chris’ life, regarding allegations of sexual abuse against his obviously vulnerable mother, along with his claimed transgender identity, many may not be familiar with his background story. It is a story that should not get lost in all of this, as trans activists argue over pronouns, and others chalk it up as simply another example of an AGP male like Jonathan Yaniv behaving in a criminal or disturbing way.

The Chris Chan story is not so simple. In fact, it has very little to do with trans activism at all.

Before I begin, I want to be clear. The charges against Chris are abhorrent and this post is not in any way meant to justify or trivialise his behaviour. He now faces the grave consequences of his actions, and I hope the American justice system will see to it that he is dealt with appropriately and unable to abuse anyone else in the future. What we need to talk about, though, is how Chris got here.

Media outlets have alluded to Chris being probably the most documented person online. This is a fair assessment; many commentators point to a 60-part documentary, available on YouTube, entitled Chris Chan: A Comprehensive History. Sadly, though, many journalists reporting on the case have not watched these videos themselves, meaning they’re missing a complete understanding of the story too.

The documentary shows how for many years Chris has been subjected to a relentless slew of online trolling and manipulation from members of internet forums such as Something Awful and Kiwi Farms. This has included being goaded into performing and documenting a lot of extremely inappropriate behaviour. I’m not going to go into the details of this here.  Rose of Dawn’s excellent video is a good primer for those who don’t have the time to sit through almost two full days of content. What is obvious from the videos is that Chris is a mentally ill man, with severe autism, who has been manipulated by online bullies to the point that he no longer has a grip on reality. It is a damning indictment of mental healthcare in the US and the toxicity that comes with anonymous online trolling.

What concerns me most, having also listened to the recording of Chris allegedly confessing to the incest with his mother, is that some of these trolls, who admit in the recording to having been in his life for years, were aware of this abuse and did nothing. Instead, they saw this as just another sensational story to gain clicks online and to ridicule and humiliate Chris and his mother. They are not heroes. Heroes, or even decent people, would have taken this straight to the relevant authorities, not post it on YouTube.

Over the course of the recording, they encourage Chris, even at one point saying “Wow, Barbara!”, when Chris claims his mother made the first move, and telling him it’s “good”, when he describes his first sexual contact with his mother. These people should be brought to justice too. I would hope that most people would agree that Chris should be dealt with seriously, but so should any person who would encourage someone with clear mental disabilities to sexually abuse another person with mental disabilities. This is the part of the story that mainstream media and other news outlets are missing.

Should we be worried that trans activism may shield people like Chris and even insist that they are placed in situations, such as hospital wards and prisons, where they may have access to vulnerable women? Absolutely. But we should also condemn the trolls who treated his mental deterioration as a joke and who did nothing to prevent or stop the sexual abuse of an 80-year-old woman with dementia. We should also be horrified that mental healthcare and social support, in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, has failed so miserably.

Sometimes there are bigger stories to tell than just “trans activist does another awful thing”. The Chris Chan story is one of those occasions. I sincerely hope that Chris continues to be detained appropriately in a male jail while awaiting trial, both to protect any future potential victims of abuse but also to cease any further manipulation or bullying of himself by bad actors. The sagas are over, and many people should feel ashamed, while the rest of us have lessons to learn about the nature of life online and the dangers it brings.