Last week amidst a sea of disappointing Buzzfeed videos, baby photos and unsolicited opinions that have come to define the Facebook experience, a quiet storm was brewing. A Sister of Perpetual Indulgence in San Francisco, Sister Roma, shared her experience of being forced to change her name to the subjectively more “accurate” one of Michael Williams.
Drag queens, performers and others who choose to identify with a name that isn’t found on any birth certificate quickly jumped on board with Roma’s complaints, sharing similar experiences. Queerty was first to report on the backlash, and the story blew up over night.
Facebook broke a cardinal rule: Don’t mess with drag queens. They will fight back relentlessly and will look fantastic doing so.
As momentum grew, Sister Roma planned a protest at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park, CA. The event description (on Facebook, naturally), reads in part:
This issue affects a lot of marginalized, creative, and professional communities, including transgender people, bullied youth, activists, LGBTQ people who aren’t out everywhere, survivors of domestic violence and stalking, migrants, sex workers, artists who work under pseudonyms, and various professionals who work in sensitive professions (eg. mental health, criminal justice, etc.) who may want to interact with friends without being found by clients. Facebook claims that its “real name” policy helps protect people from bullying, but this is a form of targeting our communities that can actually make us much less safe. Facebook is today’s public forum and they can’t exclude us — who are they to say we or anyone else isn’t “real”?!
Well wouldn’t you know it, the last thing Facebook wants are viral videos of drag queens with protest signs outside their headquarters hitting social media and the national news.
Here is the promising update from
We’ll keep you updated as the story develops.
I’m not sure why it’s a problem for FB in the first place. Yes, they want to avoid deceit, but fictional characters have real accounts with no problem, and if they reject the drag identity as real, then naturally it would fall into that category.
I canceled facebook, its to invasive.
After all the guilt trips some friends put me through about boycotting companies for being anti-gay, I couldn’t help but chuckle when they would briefly stop clicking away on FB and look at me with a blank stare and a shrug when I mentioned the huge $15000.00 donation to an anti-gay politician fighting against marriage equality, and then watching them return their attention back to their FB page without another word.
Do you guys n girls have Equity in the states?
It’s what professionals in the entertainment industry have and our “stage names” are protected and copyrighted
How would Facebook get past that one if you have your name registered with someone like Equity
I’m talking about people who are TV and film actors, stage actors, royal Shakespeare people, dancers, singers, drag queens, variety acts, circus acts, sex artists the list goes on!?
Thank Goddess for Sister Roma! This week has been a nightmare. Over half of my 2000 Facebook friends are drag queens. No one can recognize anyone’s posts.
What many people don’t realize is that a drag name for many of us is more than a stage name. We socialize with these names, it’s how we’re known to each other. I have known some people for 15 years without knowing their legal name.
This one hit really close to home. One of my good friends was forced to change her last name on Facebook. I, and almost all of my state, have known her as the name she was using for almost 20+ years. She is now forced to use another name. It just does not make any sense at all to me!
Gown men dressing in drag still and crying about it is so silly.
@Saint Law: “Gown men” is the most beautiful typo I’ve seen in a long, long time.
I must be missing something. Did nobody pay attention to the part where Facebook gives money to anti-gay politicians? Why are drag queens supporting this website and/or company at all?
People are acting like this is some sort of oppressive drag queen holocaust. It’s optional! Having a Facebook is optional. Nobody is forcing you to have one. Facebook is oppressing people through their spending while people are freaking out about names. It’s actually kind of pathetic to see the issue diverted this way.
@buffnightwing: What would you suggest men dressing in drag wear if not gowns, stoopid?
@pressuredrop: This isn’t like the owner of Chick-Fil-A donating to politicians specifically because they are anti-gay, or donating to an anti-equality ballot initiative. Facebook, like many other corporations, donates to politicians who advance their industry’s interests — in this case, Internet media companies. Some of those politicians happen to be very pro-gay. Some happen to be anti-gay. But to imply that Facebook is donating to certain politicians specifically because they are anti-gay is completely incorrect.
@pressuredrop, you are being willfully ingenuous. People in certain lines of work are forced to keep Facebook accounts or lose their living.
@IcarusD: FB may not be donating to anti-gay politicians with the purpose of going after gays, but the end result is the same. They are furthering their cause by undermining ours. People have become too dependent on FB so it is getting a free pass that no other company will get. Target for example.
I didn’t say that they intentionally seek to donate to anti-gay politicians, but the fact that they claim to support LGBT rights yet donate to politicians who deny those rights shows that they only “care” when it is convenient.
As many people have pointed out, Facebook would never get away with donating to a cause that supports blocking the rights of African-Americans or any other ethnic group.
Everybody, including gay users and drag queens, seems to give Facebook a pass for being mercenary allies. When they do this, and continue to use the website, they are telling the world that LGBT rights are not important or deserved.
Also, while I realize that some people are required to have Facebook for their jobs (I’m not being “willfully ingenuous”, and I have met people who are forced to do this), that is a problem in itself. No company should be able to force an employee to create a profile on a private, non-company website for the purpose of business networking.
It’s true that most PR companies might still expect their new recruits to have one and turn away those who do not, but this is a problem within the corporate culture. There are ways to promote products or services that don’t involve Facebook, and the fact some businesses are so reliant on it will inevitably come back to haunt them when Facebook finally trips over an issue that their buyers DO care about.
Furthermore, in this article, we are specifically talking about drag queens, who often have the ability to promote themselves in any way they choose. With all of the backlash from this incident, they could have formed their own drag queen promotional super-website instead of groveling at the feet of a company that cares nothing about our rights… Just so they can be called whatever they want at the top of their page.
@pressuredrop, the problem is that FB has become essentially a utility for people doing certain kinds of work, like electricity, water, or gas. Other utilities are regulated by governments and cannot just make up their own rules. There is a good case for FB being regulated in similar ways, especially regarding privacy, safety, and free speech issues, which are what this is all about.
Courtesan to Loki
Thanks for this article! I was recently forced to change my FB name to my “real” one. It made me incensed! Everyone knows me by my previous screename; and now they are asking why I changed it. I didn’t! FB made me. What if someone tries to find me? They won’t look under the name I recently gave them, since they’d be under the impression I was going by the personal moniker I’ve had since 1991. GRRRRR!
@pressuredrop, when i mentioned people were dependent on FB for business, i was more teferrk.g to people like these performers who yse it to network, announce shows, organize benefits, and so.in. sorry i am unable to correct this text
Actually, expectations placed on drag queens to have a Facebook are light compared to those who go to high-profile public relations companies or even simply go for internships.
I knew somebody who was getting a degree in business / public relations, and she said that most people who hire in that profession WILL search the internet for your Facebook… And, if you don’t have one, they will be highly unimpressed.
I get, on a surface level, why that is, but, knowing the way peoples’ Facebook pages are often treated, it would seem like not having a personal Facebook page would actually be the smarter PR move.
Like I said, drag queens could create their own interface for promoting drag-related events instead of relying on the social monopoly of Facebook, but they have chosen not to.
A separate system would largely defeat the purpose.
But isn’t the current system also largely defeating the purpose?
Or am I missing some part of the queens’ argument?
It wouldn’t have to defeat the purpose if drag queens made their own social networking methods large and ubiquitous enough that they couldn’t be ignored, but therein lies the problem: all drag queens would have to agree on a unified channel of online promotion, which Facebook is already denying them.
@pressuredrop, “Like I said, drag queens could create their own interface for promoting drag-related events instead of relying on the social monopoly of Facebook, but they have chosen not to.”
I abstractly agree with your argument. But the problem is that FB has built a user base and an economy of scale that would be well-nigh impossible to reproduce elsewhere, and never mind the costs, which would be prohibitive.
I understand why many people have resigned to the monopoly that is Facebook.
I just really don’t think it *has* to be that way. People are forgoing the conclusion that Facebook is not an unstoppable force.
It’s okay. Life will continue after Facebook disappears. Socialization has existed for quite a long time.
Oh, God! This is the latest chapter of “I Can’t F*kkin’ Believe This Is Actually Happening”.
@anett curtain: I’m super late to this party, but Facebook should not cave on this. This is their core strength. The real name policy makes Facebook special and makes users accountable for their behavior.
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