Drag queens condemn Facebook for ‘real name’ crackdown

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Facebook has been condemned by a number of drag queens for banning users who don’t use their real name on their profiles.

The social networking site has a policy of only allowing people to use their “real identities” on the website, and has recently locked the accounts of several drag artists for using their stage names.

A petition set up by Seattle drag artist Olivia LaGarce has so far received over 2600 signatures calling for the policy to change.

She wrote: “Recently, Facebook has been locking many performers out of their accounts until they change their names to their ‘legal identity’. According to Facebook, this is to help build ‘authentic’ community, but in fact it undermines the online communities we have built over the past several years using our stage names.

“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.

“These are the names we are known by and call each other and ourselves.

“We build our networks, community, and audience under the names we have chosen, and forcing us to switch our names after years of operating under them has caused nothing but confusion and pain by preventing us from presenting our profiles under the names we have built them up with.

“People we have known (or who have known us) for years are unable to find us, communicate with us, or recognize us in our Facebook interactions now.”

Drag queen Cherry Sur Bete told the BBC: “This isn’t just a matter for night-life performers, this is a matter for actors and musicians, as well as folks who have chosen a different name simply to avoid potential stalkers.

“Mental health professionals and victims of abuse frequently use a nickname to avoid problematic interactions. Facebook now effectively hands them over to those potential problems.”

A statement from Facebook said: “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.”