Last year Facebook began enforcing its "Real Names Policy" in the local Bay Area drag and performance artist communities because some disgruntled hater went out of his/her way to report hundreds, upon hundreds of names which he/she did not believe were valid. In response, Facebook officials deactivated a growing number of user accounts and refused to reactivate them without first receiving copies of users government issued ID's. However, even once each user verified their identity, Facebook refused to reinstate the accounts unless the users changed their display name so it reflected their ID card.
Some people, no doubt, question what the big deal is in the first place. On the surface, the "Real Names Policy" seems like it makes sense. I mean, all they're asking is that people use their legal name. What's wrong with that? But, when you're a performer or a charity drag nun activist you are not known in the community by your birth name. You're known as your pseudonym. In the thick of the controversy, when literally hundreds of my friends were forced into using unfamiliar names, my News Feed became foreign and unrecognizable. I had no idea who many of my friend's were. My wall was filled with confusion and chaos and it took all too much effort to research who was who and how we all related to each other. Suddenly, the effectiveness of our fundraising efforts was thrown out the virtual window. It was near impossible to connect with friends and followers, not to mention entice them into coming to a fundraiser or event.
Yet, still many people could care less if an LGBTQ advocate's social campaigning was hindered. They reason that Facebook is its own company and, therefore, can impose whatever rules it likes. They argue, if someone isn't happy with the rules, don't use Facebook! But, I insist that the social media giant has become more than just some website. It's now more akin to a public utility. It's services, irreplaceable in our digitally connected modern world. Have you even tried any of those other social networks? Not a one can compare with Facebook! And, trust me, I explored all the options.
Google+, Ello, Twitter, Ning, Myspace, the list goes on and on. But even when I found a company with comparable services, they all lacked a crucial component to the whole networking experience: users and user engagement.
Everybody and their puppies are on Facebook. In this day and age, if you don't have a Facebook you'll find yourself unable to participate in the community, both online and off. As much as I hate to say it, Facebook has become a modern necessity!
But, their unfair policy affects more than just silly drag nuns and gaudy queens. I quickly learned that literally hundreds of thousands of people across the globe use Facebook under assumed identities for about as many reasons. And, a lot of these people have very good reasons for doing so. Here's just a sample:
- Survivors of Violence and Abuse
- Political Activists in oppressive countries
- Mental Health Care Workers
- Authors, Actors, Singers, etc.
- Transgendered Individuals
- LGBTQ youth and people who are not able to be open about their sexuality
- Bullied Youth
The list goes on and on! And all these people, because of Facebook's ill-conceived regulation now risk exposure, violence, incarceration, stalking, bullying, etc. because Facebook refuses to amend their rules.
But here's the craziest part of this whole "conflama" (conflict+drama, if you didn't know), the #MyNameIs movement met with Facebook not once, but twice several months back. They explained how the policy hurts people and how it disproportionately affects members of the LGBTQ community and Facebook appeared to finally get it. The company promised to do away with the policy, stand with and protect the people it had been inadvertently exposing. In fact, they even worked through Sister Roma to restore the accounts of the people who had had their accounts disabled, returning them to their authentic or chosen names. Almost unbelievably, it appeared that we had won. But that was all just a farce. In reality, Facebook had no intention on changing anything because, as soon as the disgruntled masses had been pacified, they returned to enforcing the policy as usual and returned to deactivating accounts.
They lied to our faces and tried to use our oppression for publicity.
In the end, Facebook showed off it's true colors. . . Its greed!
I suspect the real reason the company is so insistent on people using legal names has more to do with advertising revenue and much less to do with the safety of the community that it claims to support!
Go to mynameiscampaign.org to stay up-to-date and to find ways you can get involved!
Drag Queens and Facebook Agree on Genuine Identity Policy
Do you agree with Facebook's Real Name Policy?
© 2015 Sister Dharma Gettin'