Facebook has agreed to meet with members of the drag community to discuss its so-called real name policy.
Several notable performers who use a stage name, among them many drag queens like Sister Roma of the Sisterhood of Perpetual Indulgence, were forced to modify their Facebook profiles this past week in order to comply with the social media platform’s rules regarding user identity, reports CNN.
The current policy states that “the name you use should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver's license or student ID,” and it prohibits “words, phrases or nicknames in place of a middle name” as well as “offensive or suggestive words of any kind.”
“Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with. This helps keep our community safe," the policy’s language reads. Although the social media platform permits these names for Fan or “Like” pages, these have more restrictions in interaction than personal profiles, which require a legal name.
After a request to comply with these guidelines, Roma changed her profile identity to Michael Williams. And in response, she and other drag performers and supporters began to plan a protest at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The group also promoted the hashtag #MyNameIs on social media platforms to draw attention to the issue.
But the protest has been postponed after Facebook reached out Monday to Roma as well as David Campos, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, with an offer to discuss the issue with members of the drag community. For those who wish to weigh in “the message we want to deliver to Facebook,” Roma announced an open forum Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Women’s Building in San Francisco, in a Facebook post.
A group of entertainers from all backgrounds, who may use stage or performer names, have also launched a Kickstarter petition advocating for the change in guidelines. It has received over 16,000 signatures thus far.
“Our chosen names are an important part of our identities and how we interact with our peers and audiences,” reads the petition, which was initiated by performer Olivia LaGarce.
“Although our names might not be our 'legal' birth names, they are still an integral part of our identities, both personally and to our communities,” the petition continues. “These are the names we are known by and call each other and ourselves. We build our networks, community, and audience under the names we have chosen, and forcing us to switch our names after years of operating under them has caused nothing but confusion and pain by preventing us from presenting our profiles under the names we have built them up with. People we have known (or who have known us) for years are unable to find us, communicate with us, or recognize us in our Facebook interactions now.”
LaGarce also points out that safety is also an issue, arguing that many members of the LGBT community, as well as victims of abuse, depend on anonymity online when they cannot be out in the real world. “By forcing us to use our 'real' names, it opens the door to harassment, abuse, and violence,” the petition says, which calls into question Facebook's intention to “keep our community safe.”