Who is Ana Mardoll
Every so often, I’ll get a message from someone saying they once knew a girl who grew up in the Family, the cult I was raised in. This started before I wrote the book and has only picked up since. They’ll call her different names, but we’ll call her Ellen, because that wasn’t her name. They’ll say Ellen told them everything. My god how it haunted her—the upbringing, the abuse, the constant moving, how her parents disowned her when she left. Ellen was plagued by illnesses, homelessness, and drug addiction. She was writing a book. Helping other individuals who’d left the cult. Eventually, tragically, Ellen ended her life. They miss her. They want me to know.
I was shocked to hear that she ended her life. I didn’t believe it. Until I found the listing in the county records. I had to be sure. We had to be sure. Because Ellen was never in the Family. From what we’ve been able to gather, Ellen grew up in a normal upper middle class suburb of a minor American city. Her parents were the sort of christians who go to church on Easter and maybe if there’s a potluck. By all accounts, Ellen had a perfectly normal childhood.
I don’t know when the lies began. And I’ll get some of these details wrong because I’m just writing this from what I remember and haven’t double checked my facts, but I know she made friends with someone who’d grown up in the cult. That person talked to Ellen, trusted her, opened up to her. And Ellen stole their story. Ellen then used these details, the sort of details we use to tell if someone is one of us, to convince a few more cult babies that she was one of us. She joined online survivor groups and studied our history and our scars. Then she changed her name, and became one of us.
Fellow survivors took her in and tried to help her find jobs, loaned her money, and vouched for her with more survivors. Ellen needed a lot of help. We’d never met someone with such shit luck, and we’re motherfucking cult babies. But she was plagued by illness, mental health issues, more illness, addiction. Cancer. Chemo. My god. We all chipped in what we could.
Ellen started a blog. Tried to start an organization. She was going to write a book. She was going to get the word out. But Ellen got sloppy. She left some medical records behind in the apartment of one survivor who’d taken her in. Then an ID with a different name in the next survivor’s house. Survivors started noticing her stories sounded familiar. Too familiar. Almost like she’d copied them verbatim from one of their friends. Facts were checked. Someone talked to her parents. Word spread, warnings were passed, and you know how this story goes.
No one heard from Ellen for a few years. She’d show up somewhere online then disappear. The last update came from me, in a post to a survivor group, with the screenshot of her death notice.
Many of us have known an Ellen. I don’t know what causes Ellens. I only know of the damage they cause. Maybe because I’ve known an Ellen, when I met Ana Mardoll on twitter, I knew who he was.
If you are somehow unaware of Ana Mardoll, save yourself. Close this window. For the love of god, read no further. Go enjoy your not very online life that I envy. Send me a postcard.
Still here huh? Alright then. The first thing you need to know about Ana Mardoll is that Ana Mardoll is not real. I know he’s been the main character of twitter for a couple days. I know his defenders are saying he was doxxed. I know half of twitter is dunking on him because he works at War Crimes inc. But Ana Mardoll isn’t a real person. Ana Mardoll, the innocent, ever so earnest, kissmate loving, cat hoarding, twee trans boy of twitter fame is the online persona of a near-40 year old person who is a software engineer at Lockheed Martin. There is no Ana Mardoll.
Ana Mardoll, the character, has been a scourge on the internet for years now. He developed his character on tumblr and moved on to twitter where he perfected it. His craft was harassing and terrorizing authors who did what he could never do, that is, write a thing anyone would want to read. But Ana Mardoll found another way to make a name and sell his self-published books. He weaponized his carefully crafted identity and used it as a cudgel against anyone who crossed the imaginary line he made up in his head that morning.
He’d change his story about his past and his ailments and financial situation constantly. He’d post takes so outrageous—“the word ‘humane’ is insensitive to people who identify as animals”, and, “reading is ableist”—they could only be described as bait, then he’d wait for the mockery. As soon he found a large enough target, almost always a queer author, he’d attack. He never said “go harass this person until they delete their account or have to check themselves in for suicidal ideation.” Few of his followers would have rallied to the cause.
What he did instead was claim the author was attacking him, sending their thousands of followers to harass him, threaten him, misgender him. The myth of the attack followers, while absolute bullshit not supported by any evidence whatsoever because authors generally aren’t running shitstirrer accounts, was nonetheless easy to believe since it’s exactly what Ana was doing.
The misgendering was an easy mistake. The character Ana Mardoll’s name is “Ana.” Add a feminine presenting picrew and block the person you’re attacking so they can’t see your pronouns, misgendering is a likely outcome, and Ana knew it or he’d have put his pronouns after his name. Most would default to what they thought they saw, or to gender neutral terms such as “they.” You can argue intent if you want. But I’ve never intentionally misgendered a person. Like most of us, and most of the people Ana went after on twitter, I’m a queer woman who’s fucking trying my best like everyone else. And I don’t actually enjoy hurting people. But that wasn’t the point to Ana. Once his target made the mistake, the gloves were off.
The offender, while quickly correcting the mistake, was labeled a transphobe. Again, Ana only ever did this shit to fellow queer people who aren’t actually sitting around on the internet looking for a trans person to kick. Ana’s followers—some of them fellow shitstirrers but mostly, from what I can tell, young queer and trans people with real problems and real enemies would see their friend Ana being attacked, because Ana told them he was being attacked, harassed, threatened, and they’d rush to defend him. Ana would continue the assault by posting out of context tweets and twisting anything he could to continue painting his target as a transphobe, an ableist, whatever he felt like charging that day.
To be very fucking clear, I don’t actually think his followers had any idea what he was doing and what he was using them for, any more than they knew he was working for Lockheed and living in a 400k, 2000 square foot house while asking them to donate money for cat food. His followers were mostly queer and trans people, many of them on the brink of homelessness or worse, under attack from every fucking corner. They likely saw themselves in Ana, a fellow survivor in this hellscape. Ana held himself up as their righteous defender. One of them. Not as he is, a 40 year old with a legacy job at BombsRus.
All Ana had to sell, when it came down to it, were target lists for those who needed to lash out. He made them feel like they were doing activism. Sure, you can’t hurt Greg Abbott, but here’s a queer author who’s literally as evil as Greg Abbott. And Ana had to sell it. Because Ana Mardoll needed a lot of help. He had medical bills. He needed a 3D printer. He needed cat food (I shit you not). He needed to escape Texas and move to Chicago. He needed to qualify for a house. And his followers were glad to help. Of course they’d help.
When he wasn’t fighting, he was burnishing his identity. Just a smol twitter busker who liked gaming and cats and kissmate, his partner. Ana Mardoll is disabled and autistic and frequently ill with a smorgasbord of diagnoses. Ana Mardoll’s had it rough. His parents disowned him. Then they paid for college, then loaned him the money for college, then paid his medical bills. His parents are wealthy and supportive. But they threw him out. He grew up in a cult. He got a concussion when a pack of toilet paper fell on his head. He had a fall. And needs a new liver. And his parents got him a job at a major corporation he won’t name.
But it’s a part time job, according to Ana Mardoll. The only job he could get with his degree and 15 years of experience as a software engineer at fucking Lockheed. It’s only a part time job. But he had to take three days off work to read a book. Though he can’t read because of his many medical conditions. And he only works part time.
There are a thousand Ana Mardolls on every social medium. They just can’t catch a break it seems. They have some of the worst luck. It’s a tragedy, a new one, every day. Please donate. Best anyone can do in most cases is block them and move on. Be glad you weren’t roped into the saga.
But this Ana Mardoll is special to me. Because Ana Mardoll once led an attack on my friend, Sandra Newman, who wrote a book , a now critically acclaimed book that had, at the time, not yet been released, but that Ana decided was transphobic before anyone had read it. Then he read the book, in the sense that he read the words in the order in which they were printed, understanding nothing but the most bad faith interpretation possible and decided that yes, the book was transphobic. And he needed donations to continue reading.
I defended Sandra Newman, for which, according to Ana Mardoll, I’m even worse than Sandra Newman, who is, for the record, the goddamn best. I have to be worse than Sandra Newman because Ana Mardoll noticed my name gets traction on twitter. So he used my name as often as he could. When Lambda withdrew their nomination for my grave sin, defending a friend—and contrary to the rumor started by Ana Mardoll, yes I was shortlisted. It’s why Lambda told the New York Times they withdrew the nomination instead of saying “Lauren who?"—when the nomination was withdrawn, Ana Mardoll had reason to post my name again, as many times as he could.
I’ve watched him do it again and again, to author after author. Some chose to apologize, essentially a plea-agreement with the internet that the charges against you are true. Some deleted their accounts. Some, like Brandon Taylor, said, “lol, okay.” And we blocked a few thousand more accounts, stayed silent when Ana’s friends and proxies spread vicious rumors about us and tried to dox us.
When I posted the news about Ellen, to the survivors she’d preyed upon, the reaction was a mixture of relief and profound sadness. Sadness for what she’d taken, yes. But also, just sadness for her, that someone so troubled had taken her own life.
When on Sunday, the internet discovered Ana Mardoll was not who he claimed to be, I felt no such sadness, not for him. While his job has been leaked, the anonymous account that doxxed him, and the internet at large have been shockingly considerate. Neither his deadname nor his legal name nor his address nor any identifying information have been used. His linkedin profile, while listed on the medium page the doxxer posted, was cropped to obscure the picture and legal name of the person who plays Ana Mardoll on the internet. The Ana Mardoll account has been deleted, for now.
But after the initial feeling of vindication, the I KNEW IT. I am left with a deep sadness. Sandra Newman never gets that book announcement back. It should have been a day of pride and joy after years of work, to announce this is my book. It’s coming out soon!, Instead, Newman was immediately labeled a transphobe because Ana Mardoll decided the premise itself, the very common premise, the thought experiment, what if all the men disappeared, was inherently transphobic. She’ll never get her name back. It will always be linked. Someone in the room will always ask, isn’t she transphobic? (She’s nonbinary you absolute morons.) I’ll never get my name back either. I too am a transphobe, because I tried to defend my friend. (It can be argued and it fucking haunts me that I made it worse by jumping in because corners of book twitter already hate me for the goodreads bullshit.) There are countless others, and then there’s Isabel Fall, who may easily the person he harmed the most.
And there are his fans, those who thought he was one of them, who thought he needed help, who donated money they probably didn’t have to give, because that’s what we do for our friends.
I was at the creek a couple weeks ago with my friend, a guy named Tyler. I met him when I was a bouncer. He’s a sweet guy who used to sneak me snacks and shots when I worked the door. He was in town and I met up with him and his friends, and when someone mentioned my name, my full name, one of Ty’s friends’ eyes went wide. Tyler, a transman, who the internet will decide I made up and it’ll be fun because I didn’t, said something like, “Oh, yeah. I forgot you’re a transphobe.” We have to joke about it. The fuck else are we going to do. His friend laughed and shook his head like, Oh, guess the internet got that one wrong. But all I could think was what it felt like, when I was his age, early twenties, just learning to accept myself, when I heard that some author or songwriter or actor I loved hated queer people. How it felt like goddamn, is it really everyone? So when I say this, please believe that I mean this, truly, with all my heart, fuck you Ana Mardoll, whoever the fuck you are.
You can buy Sandra Newman’s book here.
You can buy Brandon Taylor’s book here.
As far as I know, Isabel Fall doesn’t publish anymore.
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