Christin Milloy:

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Facebook Bans Disabled Trans Woman of Colour for Not Appearing Feminine Enough

If you follow social justice activism, then you may be fortunate enough to already be familiar with Kylie Brooks. Brooks is an activist, whose lived experience is as a black Deaf and disabled trans woman. Brooks routinely combines her stunning intersectional life experiences with brilliance and energy, sharing her thoughts and experiences online, tirelessly educating others about important issues.

Last year she spoke out on Facebook about a discriminatory practice of the Toronto Transit Commission that caused disabled trans people to be outed whenever they used WheelTrans, ultimately prompting the TTC to fix their policy. Today Brooks herself has been targeted, this time by Facebook itself: She faces what amounts to a permanent ban from the social network based on her gender identity and physical appearance.

Image of Facebook "like" hand giving "Thumbs Down"


“Kylie” is a woman’s name and her account identifies her as female. However, in her profile picture, she appears as a black person who would commonly be read as masculine, with short hair, and a bearded face. Brooks is trans, and someone who works for Facebook has looked at her profile photo and decided she doesn’t look “Kylie” enough.

“Your account has been suspended because it looks like you’re not using your real name,” says a box on the site when she tries to log in. Brooks is blocked from taking any action on Facebook until she can provide them with proof of her legal name: Something she is unable to do. Even though she’s been “Kylie” for several years, it’s not her legal name.

If she wants to get back on, Facebook will force Brooks to identify herself by a male-gendered name. That would totally disrespect and erase her trans identity on the social network, as well as undermine the great work she does communicating education about social justice issues which include trans.

She would change her legal name if she could, but unfortunately this is not an option. She lives on $758 per month. After rent, there’s not much money left over to live on… The government fees and associated legal costs in Ontario for a change of name amount to roughly two hundred dollars: Prohibitively expensive for Brooks; it would basically mean going without food. The application also requires complicated errands, and meetings with service providers, that would need to be facilitated for Brooks. For most people, a legal change of name is complicated. For Kylie Brooks, it is impossible.

Because she can’t show she’s legally “Kylie,” and since she can’t let them expose her prior name to the world, she will stay banned forever unless Facebook does something about this. This ban is more than a mere nuisance for Brooks, it will seriously impact her quality of life.

Brooks is heavily disabled. Because the world is not accessible enough to accommodate her, she doesn’t get to leave her home very often. When she does go out to socialize, she is limited to attending Deaf events, or events which provide ASL interpretation (a service in short supply due to the expense, and the low availability of qualified interpreters). Stuck at home, Facebook represents a significant aspect of her ability to interact and socialize with the outside world. Not only has she lost this vital communication channel, but she will lose access to local accessible events that only advertise through Facebook.

This ban is unjust, and represents a disproportionately negative impact on her life as it would for others. To cut her off just for being herself is cruel and unusual. Nobody should ever be judged or suspected based on the gender they appear to be. However, companies do this all the time: Last year it came to light that TD Bank routinely bans trans women from accessing their own bank accounts, because they “sound like men” on the phone.

Facebook’s “real-name” policy is a huge problem, and the controversy isn’t new. When this issue flared up in 2013, trans people and drag queens joined together to agree on something for the first time ever, when they asked Facebook to dispense with this discriminatory policy. More recently, Facebook turned the policy against indigenous people, banning them for using names in accordance with their First Nations heritages. Additionally, survivors of violence and abuse could have a legitimate interest in not using their legal names online, and may also be negatively affected by the policy. Chris Cox, CPO of Facebook, apologized in October but the policy has continued unabated since then.

In Brooks’s case, her trans-specific Facebook problems are exacerbated by the fact that she’s disabled. For one thing, she cannot shave her face—But that’s not the point. The point is that nobody should be required to conform to a particular standard of gender presentation to avoid being hounded off Facebook in the first place, and it’s pretty clear from the evidence that Brooks would not have been reported if she passed as a cis woman in photos. So what does this all mean?

While the “real-name” policy might have been intended to promote safety and integrity, it was very poorly thought out, and it’s clear that the enforcement of that policy is being done in a way that is cissexist, ableist, and racist. If it were a government, they would lose a human rights challenge. But a private, American corporation? We can only speak out, share widely, contact them repeatedly, and hope they decide to do the right thing.

Brooks has tweeted Facebook. No reply so far.


  1. BL
    Monday, 2015.04.27 at 10:49

    That is absolute bullshit

    • Kevin
      Wednesday, 2015.04.29 at 00:14

      This is just total bullshit! Who is this man at facebook who feels he is the ultimate judge of someone’s gender? HOW DARE HE! SHAME ON HIM!

  2. Andrei
    Monday, 2015.04.27 at 12:41

    So why not set up a gofund me to raise money for a legal name change?

    • Kate
      Monday, 2015.04.27 at 14:49

      But then there’s the getting around to all the places and jump through all the hoops. :/

      • Christin Scarlett Milloy
        Monday, 2015.04.27 at 17:47

        Absolutely. And for Kylie, it’s unclear how she would access those services due to the language barrier.

    • JF
      Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 17:52

      There are millions of trans people – everyone of us shouldn’t have to go through the tough process of id change etc before being able to use a basic website.

  3. Maize
    Monday, 2015.04.27 at 18:32

    I agree that a gofundme account should be set up by supporters, to include not just name change costs but also transportation and an interpretter, if necessary. It’s something the community should do for her. However, that doesn’t mean that the policy isn’t discriminatory towards other people in her situation who don’t have the resources to even have their stories publicized.

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 11:21

      Who is “the community” though? Do you mean trans people? If so, why should marginalized people have to take on the expense and effort to accomodate a billion dollar corporation? It should be the other way around. Facebook’s policy needs to change.

  4. Nikita
    Monday, 2015.04.27 at 19:59

    What they need to do is have a second spot for birth, indigenous names and the like for identification purposes. Have a note on the file that states the person is a trans, that they will sound male or female and that they have an alternate name for the purpose of their personal identity. It shouldn’t have to be this way, but at least they will be able to realise that yes , this woman’s name on a bearded face is normal. A simple note would fix the problem and the owner of the account only has to give their birth name as confirmation when contacting the site to prove they are who they say they are. But really, I use my nickname for my name on Facebook so why is that any different than a trans or ethnic person using a different name? Who cares what name you are using? It’s your business if you want to hide your identity from public knowledge,regardless of the reason behind it.

    At least if they provide a section for someone to put ‘trans’ and/or their differing birth name somewhere in the private profile there will be no confusion and only Facebook or the site moderators will ever know.

    You have to think though… Some people have Robot Bob or Chicken Teeth or something completely different, they are clearly not a robot or a chickens tooth… So why aren’t they banned for not using a name relevant to their gender?

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 11:20

      Wouldn’t work because your idea outs people which is a violation of their rights.

  5. Gina
    Monday, 2015.04.27 at 20:57

    whats the difference to FB the name a person uses? For the record, everyone the name I’m using on FB isn’t my birth name. They blocked that account about 1 yr ago (and the photo they did it over was tame compared to some I’ve seen since). The profile pic is me, but the name is my chosen, not my birth name

  6. me
    Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 00:28

    Facebook should change their policy, but in the meantime she should Photoshop her id

  7. Terisa
    Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 01:22

    I have several friends that have had thier accounts suspended on FB due to the real mame policy. A few were able to prove thier name was real” by providing mail, news articles that they had been interviewed in using thier choosen name and events where they had spoken or provided entertainment. It took several days and a bit if work but they did get thier accounts back. Hopefully Kylie can do the same.

  8. Nicholas
    Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 01:23

    Facebook policy in this matter is easy to manipulate if you’re enough of a scumbag to do it.
    This issue is being caused by intolerant jerks who have nothing better to do than report every person that looks like a Transvestite or Transsexual.
    This problem has been reported on by media outlets for the past year now.
    Facebook has resolved these issues amicably in the past and I’m sure they will fix it here as well.
    The real troubling part is that this system is easily manipulated by bigots.

  9. Diana
    Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 04:59

    Will someone with money and clout please find a progressive alternative to fb? I’d love to jump ship!

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Friday, 2015.07.17 at 18:03

      Check out

  10. Diana
    Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 05:00


  11. Kate
    Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 05:31

    Let’s start a hashtag to put pressure on? #kyliebrooks

  12. Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 14:10

    There are many fb sites that are operated based on a hobby or an interest like Christmas crafts for eg. Kylie should be able to rename her account in a creative way and that should be ok.

  13. Rebecca Renzi
    Tuesday, 2015.04.28 at 17:20

    FB’s “real name” policy sucks in general. I have friends and family members who are not allowed to use their chosen names on fb because their ID shows something else.

  14. Rachel
    Wednesday, 2015.04.29 at 01:30

    Look, this is an unjust nuisance, but there’s no way Kylie will be banned for life lest she conform to a purported arbitrary standard of gender identity. Pretty sure Facebook will rectify their mistake pretty fast.

    The real name policy has safety implications. What needs to happen is a quickly navigable exceptions system.

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Wednesday, 2015.04.29 at 09:32

      That still creates a system that normalizes and privileges cis / western / middle class people who’ve never survived stalking and abuse.

  15. Connie Thurston
    Wednesday, 2015.04.29 at 09:51

    ummmm i have a friend that Facebook won’t LET use her own real married name. Her last name is Loser. Even with her liscense they would not let her use she HAD to make up a bogus last name

    • Machi
      Friday, 2015.05.01 at 13:47

      I think Facebook is doing her a favor. She should take a hint

  16. Sadies Ariel
    Wednesday, 2015.04.29 at 23:38

    I’ve gone by Sadies Ariel for over 10 years; Sadies derived from my birth name “Mercedes” and Ariel is my middle name. It started out as a nickname, then a stage name when I performed (singer and actress), then it just became the name I go by on everything except banking, insurance, and other legal documents of the like. I’m terrified of Facebook shutting down my account some day because of it; there are several things on there that got destroyed when a flashdrive got corrupted several years ago and I’ve been slowly working to back them all up. I never did understand the whole “real name” issue with Facebook. Isn’t the point of a social media profile for self expression?

  17. Chryssie
    Thursday, 2015.04.30 at 20:03

    I didn’t read this entire article, that’s not because I’m prejudice against trans women or anything of the sort (being trans myself would make that… counter productive). The reason I didn’t read it is simple: Jesus fucking Christ the font choice of this site sucks shit. Narrow tall fonts are great for titles but for content text use something like veranda which is readable.

    Is this comment field a monospace font? Who the hell uses a monospace font for things outside of a development context

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Friday, 2015.05.01 at 10:04

      Sorry you don’t like my typography.
      Here is the veranda you asked for, I hope you find it calming. Have a pleasant day.

      Picture of Veranda

      • bess
        Monday, 2015.05.18 at 16:59

        Just a quick note that as a blogger of disability issues, it would be useful to consider that not everyone sees/reads/spells/experiences the internet in a homogenous way. Picking up on and making fun of someone’s spelling ‘mistakes’ especially when you have clearly understood their meaning is ableist as it is making a comment on and shaming your perception of that person’s intelligence.

        I agree that the text on your site is not extremely easy on the eyes and if it weren’t for my investment in this issue and deep respect for Kylie I might not have read on because of the cramped and crowded nature of the text.

        The design and layout of your site is of course up to you but please be mindful and respectful of your readers and our amazing complexities.

        • Christin Scarlett Milloy
          Friday, 2015.05.22 at 16:35

          Fair point, thank you for the callout. I should have criticized the person’s rudeness rather than their typo.

          Please note the text on this site is designed to be compliant with the browser’s capability to zoom for readability.

  18. Sally Goldner
    Sunday, 2015.05.03 at 01:20

    This may be of interest – hopefully will be widened soon

  19. Issak
    Friday, 2015.05.08 at 15:11

    I WAS THINKING OF CHANGING MY NAME AS MY FIRST STEP INTO TRANSITION BUT NOW I’M SCARED I CAN’T! Facebook is how I talk to people who help me through my depression and they have saved my life multiple times! So, I want a different name that’ll fit to my gender identity more? Guess I can’t be a guy because I’m too feminine.

  20. Noah
    Wednesday, 2015.05.27 at 12:29

    Honestly when I wanted to change my name I provided a photo of my driver’s license that I had photoshopped. It’s pretty easy to do yourself, or you can ask someone you know who is good at it.

  21. Miranda
    Wednesday, 2015.07.15 at 18:43

    Good.Kylie Brooks isfucking insane.

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Thursday, 2015.07.16 at 22:34

      I feel sorry for you because you’re either going to stay ignorant your whole life, or wake up one day feeling terrible for how badly you’ve abused the people who tried to educate you.

      • Phillip
        Friday, 2015.07.17 at 12:47

        Funny, Considering you’re the one who is ignorant. Get educated,you ignorant mong. Kylie needs to die in a fire for being a racist nazi cunt. You fuck wads are insane

        • Christin Scarlett Milloy
          Friday, 2015.07.17 at 17:54

          Go back to 4chan and tell even more people to come read my blog, mook.

          • Tee
            Sunday, 2015.09.13 at 23:15

            Kylie was pretty offensive to me, discriminating against me for being heterosexual and white. I didn’t appreciate that and don’t respect racists of any color. Have a 5 minute conversation with Kylie Brooks and you will know the truth.

          • Christin Scarlett Milloy
            Tuesday, 2015.10.06 at 15:55

            You don’t get it. I’ve just spent fifteen seconds reading your words, and I can already tell you were probably oppressive in your language when you argued with Kylie.

  22. ReverendBob
    Wednesday, 2015.09.09 at 11:05

    Because girls totally have beards, you know.

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Tuesday, 2015.10.06 at 15:56

      They can if they want to. Don’t be a stereotype-reinforcing jerk.

  23. Dequan
    Sunday, 2015.11.01 at 00:08

    fucking hilarious. that’s what happens when you be a racist piece of shit, karma bitch

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Wednesday, 2015.11.18 at 19:24

      You’re experiencing a classic misunderstanding of the definition of racism. When Kylie calls out white people for oppression, that is not racism. That is bravery and heroism, because she has to deal with people like you.

7 Trackbacks

  1. […] article about Kylie Brooks, a Black, deaf, and disabled trans woman whose account was unfairly reported, from Christin […]

  2. By facebook fail | The Gracious Mind on Saturday, 2015.06.06 at 02:32

    […] Read more here. […]

  3. […] activist, a Catholic priest, Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers, domestic violence survivors, a disabled trans woman of color, several Native Americans, a therapist who legally changed her name in an attempt to get back on […]

  4. […] activist, a Catholic priest, Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers, domestic violence survivors, a disabled trans woman of color, several Native Americans, a therapist who legally changed her name in an attempt to get back on […]

  5. […] activist, a Catholic priest, Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers, domestic violence survivors, a disabled trans woman of color, several Native Americans, a therapist who legally changed her name in an attempt to get back on […]

  6. […] activist, a Catholic priest, Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers, domestic violence survivors, a disabled trans woman of color, several Native Americans, a therapist who legally changed her name in an attempt to get back on […]

  7. […] activist, a Catholic priest, Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers, domestic violence survivors, a disabled trans woman of color, several Native Americans, a therapist who legally changed her name in an attempt to get back on […]

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Christin Milloy