FaceApp’s gender swap is playing mind games with trans users

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FaceApp, the latest controversial social media craze, promises the ability to change you — or at least your photo. It claims to let you turn a young face old, make you “hot” (by, controversially, lightening your skin color), and or help you “change genders.” For transgender users and others outside the gender binary, it’s that last gender-bending filter that has provoked difficult and strong emotions.

Chris Lowrance, who was assigned male at birth and identifies as genderqueer/trans-feminine, told Vocativ that they were initially worried the “female” filter would reveal a “perfect but unattainable…dream face.” Instead, they found the resulting image cartoonish. The “old” filter that aged them, however, struck them as particularly eerie.

“It’s the most realistic, and makes me think of my father,” they said. “It makes me worry it’s going to get harder for me to be seen as ambiguous or femme as I age, really.”

Andrew, a 17-year-old trans woman who is currently presenting male and uses male pronouns, has had a more positive experience. Since he isn’t able to get hormones on his own as a minor, he uses FaceApp to deal with gender dysphoria — a term used to describe the distress that trans and non-binary people can experience when they feel their physical appearance differs from their gender identity, or when their identity is questioned.

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