QAnon supporters are peddling the false conspiracy theory that COVID-19 vaccines turn people gay or transgender.
BBC investigative reporter Shayan Sardarizadeh posted screenshots from Telegram – the new home of many conspiracists kicked off mainstream social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook after the January 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol – promoting the false narrative that vaccines turn people LGBT.
"Two of the biggest QAnon channels on Telegram, with 180,000 and 56,000 subscribers respectively, have endorsed the baseless conspiracy theory that vaccinating children increases the probability of them identifying as homosexual or transgender at a later stage," Sardarizadeh tweeted along with the screenshots.
One screenshot is a response to a story about claims Iranian cleric Ayatollah Abbas Tabrizian made on the subject.
"Don't go near those who have had the COVID vaccine," he told his more than 210,000 followers on Telegram. "They have become homosexuals."
"IMO He's not far off," an unidentified poster responded. "This is why we have Gender confusion among our youth. Research how they put in hormones and alter DNA with their vaccines. Then pump our kids full of 50+ vaccines from birth!"
Another poster claimed that the vaccines must be responsible because being LGBT is increasing and "homosexuals by and large don't procreate."
"Truly if [being gay] were genetic then the rate should be decreasing, but it's increasing, indicating something in their environment is pushing in that direction," the poster said. "You've already received 50 vaccines by [age 4] in 2020."
Tabrizian isn't the only religious leader promoting the unfounded claim. An ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Israel told his followers that taking the vaccine might "turn" people gay.