I, like everyone I follow on Instagram and Twitter, returned to Snapchat this week for one specific order of business: the gender swap filter. It did not disappoint. Seeing myself as a dude made me laugh-spit out the water I was drinking, and also think about my dad (to whom I bore an uncanny and honestly really weird resemblance). I showed this version of me, in all of my hyper-masculine, jaw-defined glory to my colleagues, and in turn they showed me theirs. (Some of which were hot! Not gonna lie.)
But apart from the inherent irony of the great Snapchat migration (people are literally re-downloading the app, only to use the filter, save the photo, and then post it to uh...anywhere but Snapchat), reactions to the filters have been, justifiably, mixed.
These new Snapchat filters got y’all out here having fun with gender roles, joking about sex with your homeboys, and sporting beards with lashes. All we ask is that you keep that same energy when you interact with actual transgender and non-binary ppl. Thanks, management 🏳️🌈— Miss Clean Legs (@luckygoddessn7) May 11, 2019
The filters (of which there are only two) reinforce long-held traditional gender norms. With the woman filter, I had a softer look: airbrushed skin, an angular face, long hair, and doe eyes. And as a man, I was gifted a strong jaw and some admirable scruff. But while this was all in good fun, and I now know what I'd look like with a beard, some are calling on Snapchat users to check their privilege when using the gender-swapping filters so frivolously.
For trans people, of course, it isn't as simple as switching on a filter — and the suggestion that it's as easy as such (or as casual or silly) can be hurtful. There's also potential for extreme hypocrisy — that the same people enjoying the app might also be the ones discriminating against trans and non-binary people IRL.
In an increasingly social media-heavy world, where your digital presence can echo louder than your voice, it's important to remember that just because there are only two binary-upholding Snapchat filters doesn't mean there aren't other ways to be. And for cis people enjoying and even laughing at what it looks like to see themselves as a man or woman, it's essential to remember that trans issues are not a joke.