Alex Blaze

Trans man banned from Facebook is back

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 18, 2010 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Canada, dominic scaia, Facebook, social networking, top surgery, trangender, trans man

The transman who was first kicked off Facebook for uploading a picture of himself without a shirt, and then had his account reinstated but was told not to upload the offending picture again, has been told he can upload the picture. Here's Facebook's statement:

"I went back to our team here to ensure that we were being consistent in our review, and upon further consideration, the team has concluded that the photos do not violate our standards for graphic imagery and can be allowed. While we strive to apply our policies as consistently as possible, with over 350 million users on Facebook there may be instances when we fail to do this and we do our best to rectify these situations as swiftly as possible. We encourage Mr Scaia to upload the photos again if he would like to make them viewable on his profile.

We continuously re-evaluate all of our policies to make sure that they remain relevant and useful, and our policies surrounding graphic imagery are no exception. These have continued to evolve as we've seen how potentially graphic content can be used to create awareness and educate users about a particular issue. Last year's protests in Iran - and even today's crisis in Haiti - are poignant examples of this."

A trans man's chest, post-top-surgery, is like Haiti after an earthquake that killed tens of thousands? The former is something that Dominic Scaia was proud of, the latter is a natural disaster people need to build an understanding of because it's a tragedy of immense proportions. Not quite the same thing.

But they say that they didn't pull the pic because it was a transgender man's chest, but because of post-surgical scarring*, which is apparently banned on Facebook:

"A photo of a shirtless transgendered man would not violate our policies, assuming there was no other content in the photo that violated our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities," a Facebook spokesperson told Xtra. "There are a number of reasons why photos might violate our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, including if they contain graphic content such as post-surgical imagery."

I don't know which reason is sillier: "transgender men are really women so they can't show their chest" or "post-surgical scarring is graphic content so Facebookers should be protected from it." Sure, they never said it was the former and left us to guess that that's what the problem was, and it could very well be the latter. If it is really about post-surgical scarring, though, I have to wonder where the issue is.

People have surgery. It leaves scars. Sometimes for a really long time. Sometimes they never go away. Not everyone has a blemish-free body, and that doesn't make them bad people or disgusting circus freaks. Get over it. It's part of life.

This is one of the reasons I'm always weary around censorship - the entire idea is to protect the unwashed masses from imagery and information that might harm them. In turn, we have to have faith in the benevolent people who preview questionable material to decide for us what opinion we should have on it because we're either too stupid or too morally deficient to make that decision ourselves.

I'm not a sheep. If I fall on a person's profile and it has material that I don't want to see, I click "back." I won't die or go crazy or become immoral if I accidentally see something I don't want to see. And post-surgical scarring, really, isn't a problem. A transman's chest isn't a problem.

I know, I know, they're a private organization and can put up what they want. Fine. But considering the central role they've taken in people's social lives, becoming the functional equivalent of an online town square, the fact that they can remove people and content for no reason at all with no appeal should be scary. Is there a way to create a public version of Facebook? Or is the internet itself that public forum, and people will just have to leave Facebook if they don't want to be subject to its rules, excluding them from a much larger audience and community than they would otherwise reach?

Anyway, it's good Scaia's back and that he's allowed to upload the non-pornographic pictures he wants to. Although it must be weird to have your chest compared to an natural disaster and a global tragedy.

*Update: Good point. Tobi points out in the comments that Facebook doesn't exactly talk about scars in their statement to Xtra, just "post-surgical imagery."

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Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 18, 2010 3:54 PM

"Anyway, it's good Scaia's back..."

That's the part I don't get. the guy was treated just about as shabbily as possible, yet he goes right back to Facebook. It reminds me of the conservative LGBT people who voted for Bush in 2004 AFTER it had become clear exactly how much he was willing to stoke fear and hatred of our community to get elected. Being conservative isn't by itself a bad thing. Supporting and legitimizing an organization who has repeatedly treated you like shit with zero remorse and zero intention of stopping it, is.

I'm sure it's this:

In the meantime, Scaia says he is lost without his Facebook account.

"I never logged out," he says, adding that it was his primary mode of communication with family and friends.

If Scaia is banned forever, he will lose access to three years worth of photos, notes, messages and more than 300 contacts, many of whom he can't get in touch with outside of Facebook.

"You don't really realize until your Facebook is gone just how important it is," says Scaia.

Some people really like Facebook.

What's the alternative? Facebook has become a necessary part of a lot of people's lives.

If the bus driver insults me and shuts the door in my face, I'm not going to walk to work in protest. I'm going to complain and try to get back on the bus. The point is to get back on the bus.

Now that reasoning really really doesn't make sense to me. There are several major logical holes in it.

1. If "post-surgical imagery" is not allowed, why are they letting him put the picture back up? That would still be a violation if that's truly a policy they have. If it's because it has redeeming educational value, I can't imagine post-surgical imagery that doesn't on some level educate people about that surgery.

2. I had a friend who had some major burn scars on her face, does that mean that posting a picture of her face would be a violation? If not then they are being inconsistent. If so then they are being inhumane.

3. Technically, they are opposed to "post-surgical imagery" and not scars. Does that mean my friends face would be fine up until she gets reconstructive surgery? What about folks who get nose jobs? Really, in most cases it would be nearly impossible to police such a policy. Not all scars are from surgery. Many reconstructive surgeries are designed to get rid of scarring. You would have to read into a person's caption or conversation to get context for it. I doubt they're trans savvy enough to know for certain his scars were from surgery and not from something else without reading for further context.

1. Absolutely. Unless they meant that FTM top surgery educates about transgender people generally, which would seem to focus a little too hard on surgery itself.

But I think that the surgery thing was a silly excuse anyway, unless they really do police that one. I wouldn't know.

3. Good point. I updated.

jami_bantry jami_bantry | January 19, 2010 3:31 AM

I am on FB.

I have received a lot of requests for Friend Add where a guy's profile pic is an exposed penis.

They miss THAT, but they didn't miss a bare-chested photo of a guy's chest (FTM post op).

And what about all the cissexual guys with profile photos of a bare chest? It seems society cannot yet accept a photo of bare-breasted woman. No... that's pornographic.

Oh, and let's not even consider an exposed woman's genital area. I wonder how well THAT is policed. I have not seen any yet, so the patrol cars must really be out in full force looking for that.

Consistency of policy enforcement... yaa, right.

Patriarchy and subtle misogyny seems, again, to reign supreme.

Geez !


I have trouble believing you get "several" friend requests with penis pictures. Facebook is diligent about nudity. Exposed penises would be pretty rare and wouldn't last long before being banned.

Let's remember that Facebook only looks into photos that their moderators (mostly volunteers) come across or those that are reported by users. The more reports, the more likely the image is to be investigated. This is classic crowd-sourcing, and Fbook exists only because it is so effective.

So what we're getting here is a reflection of society as a whole in the digital realm. Facebook itself is not necessarily paying more attention to post-op photos, but its users are.

That's not a battle that can be fought by getting angry at Facebook.

It's really, really easy to get frustrated at a public forum, but let's remember that we take part in this and other fora voluntarily, and we have every right and ability to quit.

...But we don't. And honestly, our outrage would be so much less if we weren't so invested in the service itself.

Really? Penis pictures? I was one of the first on FB, have thousands of friends, get dozens of e-mails daily because of the site and I've NEVER seen a penis picture as someone's profile pic - or even in the photo albums.

I personally have received one or two requests with just pictures of mens torsos with penis's exposed. They definitely do exist!