Facebook to Address Real-Name Policy’s Effects on Drag Queens, LGBT Community

Facebook’s enforcement of its real-name policy has put it at odds with a community that it has a strong history of supporting, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, as drag queens who use names that are not their legal names are being forced to change the names on their accounts on the social network.

AngryDragQueen650Facebook’s enforcement of its real-name policy has put it at odds with a community that it has a strong history of supporting, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, as drag queens who use names that are not their legal names are being forced to change the names on their accounts on the social network.

Mashable reported that Facebook will meet with San Francisco city officials and activists to discuss the issue, and the social network provided the following statement to Mashable:

If people want to use an alternative name on Facebook, they have several different options available to them, including providing an alias under their name on their profile, or creating a page specifically for that alternative persona. As part of our overall standards, we ask that people who use Facebook provide their real name on their profile.

However, Facebook users including transgenders and drag performers have protested, saying in many instances that their “alternative names” are the only ones they are known by, and that they do not use their legal names, and saying that pages do not offer the same ways to communicate with friends and family that user profiles do.

Facebook has continuously shown support for the LGBT community, including:

Mashable shared a post from Sister Roma, part of drag group The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who was forced to change the name on her account to Michael Williams:

I am overwhelmed and moved to tears by the literally hundreds of emails I have received from people who are sharing their compelling stories explaining why they don’t use their “real” name on Facebook. I want you all to know that you are not alone, there are many people who were abused, shunned, discriminated against, fought custody battles, survived addiction, and maintain profiles that are very real and very separate from your legal identity. You are REAL, you are important, and your voice will be heard. I am trying my best to reply to everyone. I appreciate you all. Stay strong and safe and be proud of who you are!

According to Mashable, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos will meet with representatives from Facebook, as well as activists and performers, and fellow Supervisor Scott Wiener also weighed in on the issue with this Facebook post:

Facebook recently began enforcing a rule requiring “real names” on profiles. As a result, drag queens are being instructed to change their profiles to their birth names. This change doesn’t acknowledge the reality of our community, and I truly hope that Facebook finds a way to allow drag queens to retain their personas online. Drag queens are, and always have been, at the heart of the LGBT community. They’ve been in our movement’s vanguard from the get-go. Anything that undermines our drag sisters undermines our entire community.

While I understand Facebook’s desire to make profiles transparent and not allow people to hide behind fake personas, the fact is that for many drag queens, their drag names *are* their real personas. These are the names they go by in their daily lives, and that’s how people know them. I personally know quite a few drag queens for whom I couldn’t tell you their birth names. I know them by their drag names, and that’s who they are. A cornerstone of the LGBT community is that we don’t have to conform to what traditional society wants and expects. We get to define who we are, and we ask others to respect those choices. Forcing drag queens to step out of their drag personas undermines that fundamental principle.

Preventing drag queens from using the names that actually define who they are also puts a number of people in the untenable position of having to choose between telling the world that they’re drag queens and abandoning Facebook for their drag personas. While many drag queens are “out” about who they are, not all drag queens have that luxury. Plenty of discrimination, hate and violence toward the LGBT community still exists in many parts of the world, and various people have drag personas that they feel the need to keep separate from the rest of their lives. People who disclose their non-drag identity — and who, conversely, announce to the world that they are drag queens — should do so because they want to, not because Facebook is forcing them to do so in order to continue using their profiles.

Facebook needs to understand the reality of our community and adjust its policy to allow for this diversity. I understand that the company has escalated the issue and is willing to engage in dialogue, which I appreciate.

Readers: What is the best way for Facebook to resolve this situation?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.