Adea Danielle spent two years building her TikTok audience up to an impressive 1.5 million followers. And then, overnight, it all disappeared.
"I woke up one morning and I went on my TikTok, and I had been logged out. And when I went to log back in, it was like creating a new account," she told BuzzFeed News.
"So I look my name up, and it was gone. I didn’t get any warning."
Danielle, 20, said she had a "breakdown" after seeing all her videos disappear. As a trans creator, she said, she's often had videos get deleted. She's been told they allegedly contained content that violates TikTok's guidelines, but they'd be reinstated as soon as she appealed the ban. She claimed that videos about trans topics appeared to trigger the ban.
"I do comedy videos and I bring trans subjects in the videos to educate people. That’s my main goal on social media — to educate people about trans issues," she said.
The platform did not give Danielle a specific reason for the ban beyond violating guidelines, she said, so it's hard for trans creators like herself to know why their accounts get deleted. After Danielle's most recent ban, her account was reinstated over the weekend following an inquiry from BuzzFeed News as to what rules she had violated.
"I don’t know how it works, but I do know that [TikTok is] not made for us; it’s made for white, straight, cis people to do dances and stuff," Danielle said.
In an email to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for TikTok denied that the platform targets trans creators, or videos featuring trans content, for bans.
"TikTok does not remove content or accounts on the basis of gender identity, and we take great care to foster a safe and supportive environment where our community can express themselves authentically and creatively," they said.
The same thing has happened to Tay Scheider, 18, a trans creator from Florida.
"My videos actually get deleted all the time, even random makeup videos where I’m just smiling," she told BuzzFeed News. "It’s really weird because they always get deleted for weird reasons like sexual content, nudity, adult language, profanity — but I’m not really doing anything."
Then, last summer, someone dueted one of her videos, which sparked a wave of harassment, anti-trans messages, and false reports about her videos.
"It was a really bad time. I couldn’t defend myself, because I felt like it was just so many people coming for me," she said. "I woke up one day and saw that my account was banned, and it was just really heartbreaking for me."
Both Danielle and Scheider said they sent multiple emails to TikTok — more than 20 each — trying to appeal their bans. Scheider was eventually successful but said she was banned again three days later (and she got it fixed, again).
The platform is home to numerous trans creators. The #trans hashtag has more than 13 billion views. While TikTok has rules around hate speech, both women want more transparency and support.
"I think the app is a great way to bring people together. I feel if anything it’s made me make more friends and be more out there," Scheider said. "I just feel that they should have more of an open-arm thing because they are an app to the public. Everyone is using it."
And for Danielle, nothing is going to stop her from making content.
"People are like, 'You always post about being trans,' but it’s not just about posting that; for some people, it’s life or death," she said. "Some people are trans but don’t know it, and that video could save their life."