Facebook has responded to angry drag queens after insisting they use their ‘real’ or ‘legal’ names for their profiles.
The firm’s response, sent to Gay Star News, comes as the performers threaten to picket Facebook’s Seattle offices over the issue.
The whistle was blown by San Francisco drag personality Sister Roma who has been forced to change her personal profile name to Michael Williams.
And a Change.org petition organized by Olivia LaGarce demanding Facebook allows performers to use their stage names has collected over 12,000 signatures in three days.
A Facebook spokesman told GSN: ‘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.’
Facebook believes using real names improves trust and accountability and makes it easier to hold those who share malicious or offensive content to account.
But LaGarce makes a very different argument in her petition.
She says: ‘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.
‘[Stage names] help protect their privacy and anonymity, with good reason. Victims of abuse, trans people, queer people who are not able to be safely “out,” and performers alike need to be able to socialize, connect, and build communities on social media safely.
‘By forcing us to use our “real” names, it opens the door to harassment, abuse, and violence.’
One alternative Facebook suggests is for people to switch to Fan Pages – used by companies and brands.
But this has led some to claim Facebook is profiteering. Posts on these pages typically reach only 16% of the total number of fans who’ve ‘liked’ the page, unless you pay Facebook to ‘promote’ the post.
And Sister Roma says: ‘I detest the idea of having a Fan Page. I’m not fucking Britney Spears. I have friends, not fans.’
Another alternative is for performers to use their stage name alongside their legal name, an option Maggie Bloodstone has chosen. But this does not deal with the personal security fears LaGarce highlights.
She completes her petition letter with this appeal to the social network: ‘You’ve allowed us for years to develop communities and audiences under our personas, which has primarily been beneficial to your corporation, but this “bait and switch” that you are currently pulling on us only undermines both us and you.
‘Please allow us to use our personal profiles with the names we’ve established over several years. It is only beneficial for all of us.’