3 min

Faceless Facebook

Networking website refuses to explain trans women's profile deletions

More than six-million Canadians use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family but Mandy Goodhandy is no longer one of them. The co-owner of Goodhandy’s, a pansexual nightclub at Church and Richmond, had her profile deleted from the social networking site in September without warning.

“We have determined you violated our Terms of Use,” reads the email Goodhandy received after inquiring about her profile deletion. “Please note, nudity, drug use or other obscene content is not allowed on the website. Additionally, we do not allow users to send threatening, obscene and harassing messages.”

Goodhandy says she is mystified. “Everything [on the profile] was very G-rated as far as I’m concerned,” she says. She hasn’t heard from Facebook since she asked for an explanation of what content administrators found objectionable.

Nor is Goodhandy the only trans woman to be bounced from the networking site. Trans celebrity Nina Arsenault had her profile deleted as well, though she has since set up a new account.

“I wasn’t given a very clear reason as to why I was kicked off,” says Arsenault. “I inquired… and all they told me was that I’d been notified ‘numerous times to slow down.’ I am not sure what that meant but they never returned my subsequent emails. I am not sure if I was gaining friends too quickly or sending out too many emails. To my knowledge I did not receive any notifications about this.”

Goodhandy is uncertain whether the deletion of her Facebook profile is connected to her transsexuality, but cites the lack of gender options other than male or female when creating a profile as evidence that the networking site isn’t trans inclusive. She adds that MySpace, which deleted her profile three days after Facebook did, also doesn’t have options for trans people — except in its advertising. Goodhandy says the ads on her MySpace profile were “all directed to trans [people]. They recognize us when there are banners and they can make money.”

Goodhandy’s business partner, Todd Klinck, has also experienced problems with Facebook. He says his profile was disabled in September after Facebook accused him of spamming. Unlike Goodhandy, Klinck’s account was reinstated after he complained.

Klinck denies that he was spamming, saying that he only sent messages about events to friends and people who had signed up for the Goodhandy’s group.

While Facebook prohibits use of the site for commercial purposes, Klinck says “many of our events are fundraisers. Our promoters are not big companies with deep pockets. They are local, artistic queers, many of whom are students, who end up losing money on their events or just barely breaking even.”

Both Klinck and Goodhandy are unhappy with the ambiguity of Facebook’s regulations and the site’s unwillingness to explain its decisions.

“What is the definition of porno-graphy? What do you deem to be not acceptable?” Goodhandy asks of Facebook’s content policies.

Facebook declined Xtra’s interview requests. “No one is available to speak with you at this time,” was the email response, along with the same section of Facebook’s code of conduct that had been sent to Goodhandy.

Local band Kids on TV had a similar experience earlier this year when its MySpace page was suddenly removed. The band was given a list of possible violations and was told to forward any questions but then received no response. “They’re a giant communication network that you can’t communicate with,” says band member John Caffery.

The band’s page was later reactivated, which Caffery attributes to band speaking out about it. They started a profile to collect stories of censorship on MySpace and found that “artists who had commented on sexuality as part of their artwork or who are queer, a lot of them were being deleted.”

Goodhandy says she’s thankful that the club’s Facebook group is still operational because of its importance to the club (“Facebook can make or break an event,” says Klinck) but they’re now wary about sending information through the site.

“Since this has happened I don’t even really send messages to friends anymore, just to the group, just in case,” says Klinck.