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Queer Censorship

Demonizing QUeer Imagery

Amidst the massive, pride-centric rainbow washing that happens all over social media – rainbow filters, rainbow logo changes, and more – there is a ton of censorship that still happens on social media platforms. Queer-coded visuals have long been demonized. Just take a look at, like, every Disney villain: Jafar, Scar, Hades, Governor Ratcliffe, and Captain Hook all seem to be glamorous-yet-devious feminized men who are ultimately humiliated and exposed for their weakness. Not to mention, Ursula is styled seemingly after Divine, the iconic drag performer. You can point to basically all media formats and find patriarchal coding, and social media is no exception. 

Author Bio:

Madeline Dintino (they/them) is a queer and non-binary individual who specializes in thinking, creating, and designing for radical inclusivity. They are a queer theorist with a focus on fashion design, and they believe that with the liberation of the most marginalized among us, we all are set free. 

Madeline runs a zine publication called LooseChange under their brand, the Flower Punks Collective (@flower.punks). 

Author Bio:

Madeline Dintino (they/them) is a queer and non-binary individual who specializes in thinking, creating, and designing for radical inclusivity. They are a queer theorist with a focus on fashion design, and they believe that with the liberation of the most marginalized among us, we all are set free. 

Madeline runs a zine publication called LooseChange under their brand, the Flower Punks Collective (@flower.punks). 

Queerness is being censored. Period. 

Here at Play Out, we have been experiencing censorship for queer-forward, body-inclusive content since day one. It’s actually why we decided to start this blog in the first place: we got tired of literally being smacked off the internet for talking about our experiences and existing in queer forms, even while we paid a ton of money for advertising on these platforms (we won’t name names, but it rhymes with space-look…).


Social media is undeniably an essential tool of business nowadays, and a place for small brands to get a foothold in the industry. How are queer businesses, small businesses, or inclusive businesses supposed to gain a following and get a foothold in success if you can’t rely on social media promotion? We do believe have rules against damaging content, but the problem is our existences as queer people are classified under the umbrella of “damaging content.” 


So, lucky for everyone (except maybe Mr. Zuckerberg), we have been gathering screenshots, case examples, and proof, and we are going to lay it all out for you today. 



The Policies In question

"Personal Health"

This is, in our opinion, the most insidious policy we get flagged for. The policy states: “Ad must not contain “before-and-after” images or … attempt to generate negative self-perception in order to promote diet, weight loss or other health-related products.” 


The insidious part of this is not the rule itself, we actually agree with the sentiment. The part that enrages us is when the bodies that we post are basically being perceived as “before” content; the bots and people at Facebook believe that the only reason we would only post diversely-sized bodies would be to show people why they didn’t want to look that. It is absolutely enraging and deeply bigoted. 

This is the policy we get flagged under, mainly when we show stretch marks and diverse body types. It is assumed that since we are showing skin we are trying to sell people something to change their body. First the bot flags and removes our post, and when we send a request to get it reviewed and to get an actual human to look at it, it often remains the same. 


"Sexually suggestive content"

Anything that can be construed as sexual or of sexual implication is technically against policy. The way that they choose to enact this policy, additionally, is entrenched in bias. How many times a day do you see a bikini butt pic on Instagram, which stay up perfectly fine? These posts break the "images focused individual body parts such as abs, buttocks or chest, even if not explicitly sexual in nature" clause, but some are policed more harshly than others. And indeed, the very of certain body parts simply *existing* and being deemed as sexually suggestive is something we take issues with. Not sure if the news has spread, but bodies don't exist just for sex!

"Sexually Explicit content"

This policy is fairly straightforward, and the issue we take is with the way it is enacted, which (to no one's surprise) expressly prioritizes whiteness, skinny bodies, able bodies, straight bodies, cis bodies, etc. And the truth is, underwear is actually not sexually explicit content. Most of our content has nothing to do with sex, but in a system that still couples queerness with "bedroom preferences," fetish, and sometimes perversion, our existences and our bodies get reduced to "sexually explicit," and "mature audiences only."

Let's Look at some Examples:

Play Out's Post:

This post was flagged for being "sexually aggressive." 


Photo credit: E Leifer, Play Out Apparel co-owner

A comparable post:

This post from a cishet-centered underwear brand was allowed to stay up on Instagram. 

Play Out's Post:

This post was flagged for "sexually explicit." 

Photo credit: @ericjukelevics

A comparable post:

This post from a cishet-centered underwear brand was allowed to stay up on Instagram. 

Play Out's Post:

This post was flagged for ambiguous reasons, saying simply that "this item can’t be used for ads."  We aren't sure why?? But we are comparing it to this post that has had no issues despite being extremely sexually suggestive. 


Photo credit: @adriannafavero

A comparable post:

This post from a cishet-centered underwear brand was allowed to stay up on Instagram. 

So when we say "a lot of posts..."

When we say we get pinged, all the time, over and over again, even when we pay for advertising, this is what we mean. This email screenshot covers the dates May 2-Jun 29, about 2 months, and the number of flagged posts comes out to 174 posts or ads being rejected. This happens continuously.


This happens to us all. The. Time. We are an unapologetically queer brand who shows unapologetically queer people. And we are barely allowed to take up space on the internet because of systemic bigotry on these platforms. 

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