Sister Roma and a gaggle of San Francisco gays and drag queens including city supervisor David Campos, Heklina, and Lil Miss Hot Mess all went to Menlo Park today to sit down with reps from Facebook and hash out their problems with getting locked out of their accounts for not using their “real names.”
The controversy’s been brewing since last week, and has now reached an absured point of worldwide outrage with coverage from the AP, the BBC, CNN, and basically everyone. At issue is the fact that a bunch of local drag queens have been targeted to revert to their legal names, and told set up Fan Pages for their drag personas, or else risk losing their accounts. No one wants to do this, of course, because drag queens use Facebook on the regular to promote themselves, and Fan Pages suck for that — you can’t even send invites from them.
So yes, nothing was decided today, but as we speak, Roma and the gang are giving a press conference at City Hall and I should have some updates for you later today regarding this monumental moment of diplomacy between the drag world and tech world. They just want their names back!! (You can currently find Roma under the name Michael Williams. Yeah.)
Update: Sister Roma gives us the update.
Facebook refuses to agree that the legal name policy is unfair and discriminatory.
They acknowledged that although Facebook has the legal name policy they do not enforce it.
While we could not get them to budge on the actual policy they did seem more open to considering that there are flaws in the complaint review process.
We left the meeting with an agreement that they would continue to meet with us to further hear our concerns and work together to find a compromise.
Conversations with LGBT employees of Facebook after the meeting left me feeling a little more hopeful. They hinted that this issue has been raised internally and there have been heated debates on both sides of the legal name policy. We definitely have allies working “on the inside.”
Shortly after the meeting Facebook announced that they would reinstate profiles of members of the LGBT community that had recently been targeted, suspended or removed. The statement further goes on to say that Facebook hopes that within 2 weeks time the users will either confirm their real identity, change to their legal names, or move to a fan page. While at first glance this seems like a grand show of support for our community it is actually a completely hollow gesture. Basically they offered to give us our profiles back so that two weeks later they could suspend them, demand we comply to their unfair and discriminatory policy, and if not, take them away again. This is completely unacceptable.
We will not rest until not only drag queens, but everyone, has the right to CHOOSE how they wish to be identified on Facebook.
Stay tuned. This is not over!