Facebook drags ‘Sisters’ into real-name battle
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos is calling on Facebook officials to meet with local drag queens to discuss the social media website’s recent crackdown on the performers to change their profile names.
Facebook, based in Menlo Park, has locked many drag queens out of their accounts unless they edit their stage names to their “real identities,” which is outlined on the website as a legal name listed on a credit card or driver’s license, according to recent news reports.
Users can also include an alternate name such as a nickname, professional name or maiden name that can be added on to the profile.
Campos noted that the crackdown has affected local drag queens including Sister Roma, Heklina, BeBe Sweetbriar, Lady Bear and Anna Conda:
“Facebook may not be aware that for many members of the LGBT community the ability to self-identify is a matter of health and safety. … Not allowing drag performers, transgender people and other members of our community to go by their chosen names can result in violence, talking, violations of privacy and repercussions at work.”
Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was one of many drag queens locked out of her Facebook profile and has changed her profile name to “Michael Williams,” her legal name, in order to regain access.
Roma started her Facebook profile in 2008 and didn’t have a problem logging in until Wednesday. She was initially concerned because she uses her profile to interact with her friends under the name “Sister Roma,” a name she has used for 27 years, as opposed to her legal name, which she’s not commonly known by.
She knows other drag queens that have tried to create a hybrid of their legal name and stage name only to have their accounts shut down. They have to send Facebook a photo identification card with their real names to regain access to their profiles.
Roma said the name issue isn’t only impacting drag queens, but also women trying to avoid abusive relationships, people being stalked and others who have found peace with another identity. Roma disagrees with people who have said Facebook is targeting the LGBT community through the profile name crackdown and said whoever made the decision was misguided.
While Roma supports Facebook’s intention of creating a safe environment on its website, she thinks the crackdown is doing the opposite:
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement:
“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.”
Roma has a Page on the site under the name “Sister Roma” separate from her personal profile but said the interaction is limited. Users who like her Page can see her posts but she can’t see theirs, a barrier that she said limits social interaction.
A Change.org petition started by Seattle drag queen Olivia LaGarce asking Facebook to allow performers to keep their stage names on their profiles netted more than 4,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon. The online petition can be viewed at https://www.change.org/p/facebook-allow-performers-to-use-their-stage-names-on-their-facebook-accounts.