Brandon, who was 6’4″ and really hot, had been sitting on his bar stool observing Andy and me. “What’s your agenda?” Brandon said, tilting his head toward me. “My agenda,” I replied, “is to see how you feel about your faces.” When I feminized Brandon, he totally transformed—from a pretty masculine-looking dude into a full-faced angel.
They were calling the app “hilarious” a lot: It was “funny,” and that’s why they did it. The humor of the experience seemed to be an attempt to hide something. So I pried, interrogating them about why they had wanted to feminize their faces, and how they felt sharing her with other people.
Eventually, the guys steered their conversation toward transgender women. I knew that might happen, and had wondered from the start if they’d notice that I am trans. Normally I wouldn’t mind if they did, but I hoped they wouldn’t because I felt that if they knew, it would color the entire discussion. While many of these guys looked pretty with feminized faces, some felt that without seeing the full package, so to speak, it was hard to determine whether they’d be attracted to themselves. A pretty face is never enough.
Andy and his friends had heard of FaceApp before—but they hadn’t used it. They said that if they were to share their feminized images on their social-media accounts, “seven out of ten comments would be: ‘You’re a fag,'” Andy explained. “Nine [times] of out ten, it would be hurtful stuff,” Brandon said with a sad shrug of his broad shoulders.
At 5 PM on a Thursday we descended to the dark, dank space. Several normal-seeming people texted on stools. Four men wearing khaki and puka shells played beer pong in the back. After ordering sodas and nervously chatting between ourselves, Leila and I made several failed attempts to convince men to let us feminize them. As predicted, it was harder to find willing participants here. But then a tightknit group of four college-age guys—Andy, Brandon, Corey, and Kevin, names all changed—trotted down the stairs from 2nd Avenue.
At first, their responses were defensive. “Same reason you do a Snapchat filter to turn yourself into, like, a mouse?” said Peter. But then the boys began to open up. Taji told me that many guys have reservations about being feminized. “This other skater we were with was like, ‘Oh, don’t do it to me!'” he said. The skater got upset and rode away. “I guess he had done it to himself before, and he just thinks it’s a little much.”
James explained that some men may be comfortable digitally feminizing themselves, but would draw a line at wearing makeup or women’s clothing in real life. FaceApp images can be deleted, he explained, but although makeup can be wiped off, “it takes longer than just hitting the delete button.” The thing that makes digital feminization more palatable is that it doesn’t require a physical act.
I felt deep compassion for men in that moment; they live their lives with every act recorded in the undeletable browser history of their manhood. “It’s not even the act of doing it once,” someone else said, “it’s just the fact of I’m someone who’s never done X and I have to remain someone who’s never done X.”
“I’m not gonna love a man,” another said.
Masculinity is a prison. Could I free bros from it using a popular app that feminizes their faces?