Snapchat’s Gender-Swap Filter Decried as ‘Transphobic’

An illustration picture taken on March 22, 2018 in Paris shows a close-up of the Snapchat

The self-appointed transgender police have besieged Snapchat for a filter that shows what a person would look like as the opposite sex, alleging that the app oversimplifies gender transitioning.

Snapchat is learning the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished as a filter meant to encourage openness to gender fluidity is being condemned by LGBT hardliners as insensitive to the hardships of transgender people.

“We are essentially the butt of the joke, through cruel and insensitive caricature,” said Maliyah London, who is transgender.

Others have criticized the filter for embracing stereotypes about the binary, male-female nature of sexuality by only offering those two options of gender identity.

“While Snapchat’s new filter is a lot of silly fun, there’s a more serious side to it,” writes Arwa Mahdawi in the Guardian. “It’s somewhat ironic that an app that encourages you to play with gender has such a binary view of it.”

There is “a fine line between encouraging people to take gender less seriously and not considering trans realities or carelessly perpetuating misunderstanding about trans identities,” Dana Vivian-White, who identifies as non-binary, told Vice.

Eric Stanley, an assistant professor in the Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, Riverside, said that the social media response to gender-swapping filters fits the pattern of ongoing practices of transphobia.

The response to the filters seems to support “the idea that men should be ‘outraged’ when they learn that the gender of those they are attracted to does not directly map on to the cultural norms dominant society mandates,” Stanley said.

Writing for Mashable, Sage Anderson said that Snapchat’s new gender-swap filter “exposes the internet’s casual transphobia” by allowing cisgender people to play at swapping sexes with no real-life consequences.

“While you’re having fun posting about your imaginary chiseled jawline or flawless face of makeup, you might want to consider how this filter perpetuates some pretty whack stereotypes before you post your selfie. After all, casual transphobia looks good on no one,” Sage chides readers.

Another trans writer, Rose Dommu, said that the new filter with its instant transition is “not cute.”

“My Twitter mutuals don’t go with me to every painful laser hair removal appointment, don’t understand the feeling of waking up three times a night to pee because of Spironolactone’s diuretic properties, don’t shove a needle full of estrogen into their thigh twice a month, haven’t listened to me grapple with the dilemma of whether or not to get facial feminization surgery,” Dommu laments.

For people who grew up in a world where boys were boys and girls were girls, all of this can be quite confusing.

The permutations on human sexuality and personal identity spiral off at such a dizzying pace that it would seem justifiable to wonder whether any of this represents real progress for humanity or just a dark Wonderland where reality is swapped for something akin to a very bad acid trip.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter


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