There are some that say it wasn’t about drag queens, but for those affected, it seemed an awful lot like there was some motive behind the “Real Name Policy” and its attempt to give the queens whose names were ripped from Facebook and replace with unfamiliar names like Michael Williams (Sister Roma’s “Legal Name”). But you can’t come for queens without them letting you have it and that’s just what they did. Before we knew it, Sister Roma, Heklina and Lil’ Miss Hot Mess were at the Facebook offices and ready to march down the Facebook campus. Luckily talks prevented anything too bad from happening, but we were ready to march at every Facebook office in the country and even the world if necessary.
We’ve heard from every media outlet from the Gaily Grind all the way to CNN about this Drag Queen versus Facebook’s “Real Name” policy. There was a meeting with some of San Francisco’s most famous members of the Drag community and some members of the Facebook team. Unfortunately, all the meeting gained was a “grace period” for the inevitable close of the accounts that continue to use a false name. There was a brief period where the community was organizing a protest at the headquarters of which as of yet has not been completely cancelled, but the drag community is audibly divided as to what the next steps should be.
There are those drag queens who have said they’re just creating the page from their personal profiles because they see their performance side as a business and treating it as such. Mimi Imfurst made this recommendation stating, ” its much healthier in the long run to keep your business and personal lives separate.” There isn’t a limitation of friends like there are with the profiles, however, you don’t reach as many of your followers when you post information without paying to boost your post.
Others have changed their names to the given names and use their stage names as the alias option which shows up as a little parenthesized name under the “real name” of the profile. A few days ago you couldn’t search someone’s alias, but it looks like Facebook has tried to fix that quickly because we have found a few people when searching their stage name that are now listed as their alias. But their “real name” still shows in the timeline so it’s difficult to tell who’s talking about what.
There are also those who have opted for other social networks like our friends at dragbook.com or even Google+ who’ve openly stated they will not be enforcing the legal name fight. The only potential problem with this is while the performers may have moved to a different site, do they have the power to move their fans with them?
The one thing we feel is certain, the Facebook folks have only seen one side of this “safety issue” in using real names. They claim it’s so you know who you’re interacting with online. However, they haven’t completely considered past the drag performers being identified by someone who claimed to be on a witch hunt and reporting drag queens to Facebook for violating this policy. Several people have pointed out the affect this could have on people who are hiding from their dangerous pasts, with abusive relationships, bigotry or assault. The transgender community will also be affected because while they may consider themselves the opposite gender, to obtain identification with their correct gender several steps may be necessary that they can’t afford at this point. They may be living their lives and will now be affected by being subjected to this policy.
Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg had this to say about his policy, “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” Apparently it’s fine for his dog “Beast” to have a Facebook profile, because of course dogs can type for themselves. Better check your stuff Mark, better check it.
The press conference should be on the news this evening for all to see, but Bebe Sweetbriar, one of today’s meeting attendees had the following statement for the fans waiting for news:
“I know many of you are waiting with baited breath on the outcome of the Facebook meeting, and I can say the result we hoped for: acknowledgement by Facebook that the real name policy is flawed and needs to be changed; that a timeline to correct the policy needs to be set; that an interim plan needs to be put into place to stop further lock outs until a permanent solution is put into action; and more: we did not walk away with. However, FACEBOOK did acknowledge that they want to work with the community to find ways that the existing policy works for everybody and is not disproportionally harmful to anyone…… So, we are waiting for another meeting date that would include people from FACEBOOK that can actually make some decisions at the table. In the meantime, all of you out there who are able and willing to go through with a protest need to be prepared to mobilize if the matter at hand doesn’t move forward at a pace of urgency. The 2pm press conference should be on every local news station for they were ALL present at City Hall. David Campos Campaign Headquarters, Michael Williams, Steven Heklina Grygelkoand others spoke eloquently to the press about the Facebook meeting. The tight us far from over #MyNameis#BeBeSweetbriar.”
We can’t applaud Sister Roma enough for standing up in what she describes feels like a “David & Goliath” situation. But it’s because she’s Roma that so many people in the LGBTQ community are able to do what they do without feeling ashamed or belittled. She’s not about to let Facebook stomp on the community. We anxiously await what’s next and hope it’s a compromise that allows for the safety of all Facebook users.
Sister Roma has been the face of the fight for this “real name” witch hunt by Facebook. She’s made it abundantly clear this is not just about “a bunch of drag queens bitching” but it’s also about the safety of some people who chose to use a different name on Facebook. To that point, Sister Roma has asked people to email Roma@TheSisters.org with real life stories leading to the change of their Facebook profile from their “real name” to an alias. She’s been floored by the outpouring of responses she’s received.
She stated the following this afternoon:
“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!”
The resolution is clear as mud at this point. We received this information from the group organizing the protest which was originally set to happen Tuesday September 16 at 11AM at Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park.
On Monday morning Facebook accepted an invitation extended by members of the San Francisco drag community and Supervisor David Campos to hold a public meeting regarding the company’s real name policy.
San Francisco drag queens including Sister Roma, Heklina, BeBe Sweetbriar and Lil Miss Hot Mess have recently launched the hashtag #MyNameIs to protest the crackdown on profile names. The group had previously threatened a Tuesday morning protest at Facebook headquarters unless the company accepted an invitation to meet with the drag and transgender community.
In recent weeks drag performers have had their Facebook accounts suspended due to a policy requiring them to use their “legal name” in their profile. They assert that they should have the right to determine their own online identities. Many drag queens and members of the transgender community have also expressed concern that not allowing them to use their chosen name is a safety issue as it outs their real names and information.
Supervisor Campos, who extended the invitation to Facebook on Friday says “I am glad that Facebook has accepted our invitation to engage in a meaningful public dialogue with the drag queens and members of the transgender community who have been affected by the profile name policy. We know that many Facebook employees live in San Francisco and enjoy the contributions to nightlife that Heklina, Sister Roma and others have made. This will be a great opportunity for Facebook to constructively engage with its neighbors”
Sister Roma, a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, says “This issue is way bigger than a bunch of drag queens complaining because we can’t use our stage names. This policy is discriminatory and potentially dangerous to a variety of Facebook users including abused and battered women, bullied teens, political activists, sex workers, and especially members of the transgender community; all examples of people who use pseudonyms to ensure their safety and privacy. I am glad that Facebook is willing to meet with us to address our very real concerns.”
Heklina, founder of the legendary Trannyshack party stated “We gave Facebook a chance to meet with us and I am glad that they took it. Having my profile suspended and my name questioned has been a very frustrating experience. I’m looking forward to working with them to change this policy.”
**The latest was posted to the event page of the protest.
After a conversation today with Sister Roma and Supervisor David Campos, Facebook has agreed to meet with representatives from communities affected by their “real name” policy on Wednesday. This is an historic victory, and we’ve decided to *POSTPONE* our protest and give them a chance to proactively change their policy and ensure online safety and authenticity for everyone.
BUT, that doesn’t mean this is over! Please keep spreading the word and building the buzz in three ways:
1. Keep sharing on social media! Use the hashtag #MyNameIs across all platforms, and we’ll be releasing graphics for profile pictures and whatnot soon.
2. Looking to chat in person? Come to the Harvey Milk Club’s meeting tomorrow, Tuesday 9/16 at the Women’s Building. We’ll have an open forum from 8pm-9pm on the message we want to deliver to Facebook.
3. Share this update and stay tuned for more! We don’t know how this will go — we may need to ride the bus to Menlo Park after all!
We’ll keep a close eye on the situation and keep everyone informed, follow our blog for the latest on this and all drag issues. Be sure to support your local drag queens as they are all subject to this horrible discrimination.