Gender exchange filter: Funny or insulting?

With just a click on a button, you become a man, complete with a square jaw, stubble and bushy eyebrows. One hit and another click, now you are a woman: long eyelashes, a small bright face and soft braids. Confused? The new filter of gender exchange in social network applications as Snapchat , that allows you to become a man or a woman, has been all the rage. From movie stars and athletes to netizens around the world, everyone seems to be obsessed with it. But what many think is just a harmless joke, even if in itself, has not worked well with the LGBTQIA + community. hitting people who are exchanging their gender without thinking about an application, simply because it's fun to do so, those for whom gender identity issues are a reality, say they trivialize their struggles. pg3_snapchat5


Why do LGBTQIA + think that the gender exchange filter is not good?

Several celebrities from Tollywood, including Navdeep & Lakshmi Manchu have posted videos & pictures of themselves in their swapped genders, & fans have been liking & sharing the same enthusiastically. Explaining why you should pause & think before you share such a post, Hyderabad-based expressionist dancer, Patruni Chidananda Sastry, who identifies as gender-fluid, says, “It might not be the intention of these celebrities to mock anyone, but you must understand that it does seem derogatory to people who are unable to embrace their true identity due to societal & familial pressures. For you it’s just a filter that can be deleted when you are bored of it. For someone else though, it’s his/her identity; one that he/she is struggling to embrace or get acceptance for.”

pg1_snapchat2 The term ‘gender-swap’ itself is derogatory to those who identify themselves as gender non-conforming or gender fluid. “This filter peddles the idea that our identity is something as fake & flaky as a snapchat filter, & that, to me, is hurtful,” contends Mohit, who identifies as gender neutral. Most of all, it’s the hypocrisy of it all that LGBTQIA+ folk find it difficult to digest. The irony that people are happy to play around with gender filters on social media & laugh it off, but still look at transgender people as ‘queer’ is not lost on them. “I believe it is a fun filter but what’s hypocritical is that several people use this filter to seem cool with it, but in real life, they are transphobic & believe that being gay, lesbian or trans is a biological problem. That’s simply unacceptable,” says Anil Kohli , who identifies as gay.

pg3_snapchat7 Mumbai-based LGBTQIA+ activist Harrish Iyer, nods in agreement, & urges people to be more mindful when they use such filters. “if you’re accepting of a friend’s gender-swap filtered face, but cannot stand a ‘man’ who is effeminate or a ‘woman’ who is andrgynous because they choose to express how they feel from within, rather than how you think they should be, then your double standards stand exposed. It reflects badly on you as a human being. I hope people give this a thought before they use the filter.”

What celebrities have to say

From the pop singer Miley Cyrus & Kat Dennings of the Two Broke Girls’ fame to B-town star couple Priyanka & Nick Jonas — a host of Hollywood & Bollywood stars have shared their gender-swapped selfies with quirky captions, albeit just for fun. If that’s not enough, social media is flooded with fan-made swapped avatars of an array of international & desi hearthrobs, which have got scores of likes & ‘hearts’. Tollywood TV host-actress-producer, Lakshmi Manchu , who posted a rather handsome image of herself sporting a virtual beard, insists that it was never her intention to hurt anybody’s sentiments. “I have always supported the (LGBTQIA+) community & I don’t look at them differently. If I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings, I profoundly apologise for it. It was a fun thing I was doing with my kids & even my dad couldn’t recognise me,” says Lakshmi. However, she thinks too much is being made out of the filter in question. “There are bigger issues that the LGBTQ+ community is facing & I will wholeheartedly support & fight for them. This filter is too minute to discuss & I personally don’t see anyone ridiculing the gender,” emphasised Lakshmi.

pg3_snapchat1 Actress Adah Sharma though, offered her support to the LGBTQIA+ community. The actress, who is essaying the role of a transgender man in her next film, says, “It really isn’t my place to pass judgement on what should & shouldn’t offend the community because that’s their reality & they have the right to speak up about it & I support them wholeheartedly,” she says.

pg3_snapchat6 Let's spread love, not hatred.

Mumbai-based activist & artist, Durga Gawde, who identifies as gender fluid, says, “I understand that this is a deep-rooted issue & these strong reactions are a result of years of judgement & mockery, but people really need to calm down. I personally don’t believe that the people created this filter with an aim to hurt the LGBTQIA+ community or to spread hatred or bias.”

pg1_snapchat1 Similarly, Hyderabad-based activist Vyjayanthi, who identifies as transgender, explains, “People have the right to express themselves & have fun with filters as long as they aren’t infringing on anyone’s freedom. I don’t have any problem with the filter but I would like to encourage these people to understand that gender expression should not just be limited to encourage these people to understand that gender expression should not just be limited to entertainment. Your image with the gender-swap filter might get a lot of likes & love from your friends, but for people like us, this is not just a filter; it’s a reality. Unfortunately, we don’t always get the same love & acceptance. So, while we have fun, let’s not forget that truth.” Hopefully, those who used the filter & loved it, will remember not to be judgmental when they see someone who chooses not to conform to gender stereotypes.