Trans People Have Strong Words For That Controversial Photo-Editing App

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
FaceApp — the newest time-wasting app that lets you play with editing your face — is coming under fire yet again. Last week, we reported on how its "Hot" filter was racist because it dramatically lightened your skin.
The Hot filter has since been removed, and creator Yaroslav Goncharov (no relation to the author of this story, that she knows of at least) apologized, telling The Guardian, "It is an unfortunate side effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behavior."
Now, trans people are debating the merits of the app's "Male" and "Female" filters, as Vocativ reports.
The app's current filters include Smile, Smile 2, Old, Young, Male, and Female. As we were writing this article, FaceApp also released the new "Female 2" filter, which looks slightly less cartoonish than the original but also changes your face's outward gender presentation by putting makeup on it and making the skin look smoother.
Many of these filters look a bit creepy and unrealistic, but some people have also found the gender ones offensive because they adhere to a restrictive binary, relying on physical features typically coded as masculine and feminine (long hair, facial hair, and the like).
Pidgeon Pagonis, an intersex educator and activist, told Vocativ that FaceApp and similar apps "prop up the false notion that there is a clearly discernible binary opposite to one's gender."
Trans people who have tried the app have varying opinions.
Some have said that the app calls up gender dysphoria, which is the term used to describe the state of conflict trans and non-binary people may feel when their physical appearance is different from their gender identity. Because many people don't have access to (or don't wish to use) hormone therapy, seeing their face as it's "supposed" to be can create feelings of distress.
Sam Riedel, a writer about transgender issues, conducted a Twitter poll and found that 24% of trans people say the app makes them feel "all kinds of dysphoric." (Of course, Twitter polls are to be taken with a grain of salt, and also 39% of the responses were "WTF is FaceApp.")
For others, it was an interesting experiment. Parker Molloy, a trans writer, put in a picture from before she came out to see how well its "Female" version would match actual her.
Jes Tom, a comedian who identifies as queer and non-binary, said, "I'm honestly pretty interested in how #FaceApp imagines trans childhoods that never actually existed for many of us."
Devyn Drufke, a photographer who is trans, said: "Hair ideas? LOL. The male one freaked me out. Never again."
Many people found the filters to be "too much." A trans writer named Sara Ann said, "To be honest, I didn't like the way the female filter made me so uber-femme. I looked like a 13-year-old Barbie doll."
Jenny, a computer engineer, agreed. "Same here, made me look 13 and very pale." She added that it made her look a little bit like she had gotten facial feminization surgery.
Matty, who identifies as transmasculine and non-binary, said the app actually helped him feel better about his presentation. "Hardly any changes for the masculine side made me feel amazing."
While some said the app would just upset trans people, others reported that it helped them view themselves in a more positive light.
"I actually liked it, it shows me that all I need to do is get rid of beard shadow and reshape my eyebrows," said a Twitter user named Katrina.
But the point remains that not everyone who wants it can afford FFS.

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