Of recent times, Facebook has made some strides to appeal to its large group of LGBT and non gender-conforming users by widely expanding their range of accepted gender identification terms. The fight is not over for LGBT Facebook users, though. Facebook’s “Real Name” policy requires all users to identify on Facebook as some variation of their legal name, thereby forcing many users, trans* users most commonly, to use a name which in some cases has not been associated with their true identity. The policy has only been loosely enforced in the past, but more aggressively so as of late.
It is also my concern that this policy will affect other users who may have a reason to use a false identity, such as those hiding from abusive partners or otherwise protecting themselves from prying eyes.
Facebook’s reasoning for their rule is vague, stating in their “what names are allowed on Facebook?” page that “We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe.” While there may be some merit to this claim, in some cases our “real” name and our legal name are not the same thing, so there is surely a way in which the policy can be tweaked to be more inclusive without threatening the safety of Facebook users. Hopefully in light of Facebook’s recent decision to be more inclusive with their gender policy, we can expect similar results with this unfair policy in due time.
In response to the sudden influx in suspended accounts, affected users, predominantly those identifying as drag queens, have started a Twitter campaign protesting the rule in which they write briefly about their opinions of the policy or their experience which led to them feeling discriminated by it, followed with the hashtag #mynameis led by a drag queen named Sister Roma who has been forced by Facebook to identify by her given name, one which she has not used in 27 years.
The protest was cut short, however, when Facebook agreed to meet with Sister Roma to discuss the possibility of a policy change. In light of Facebook’s perceived willingness to adjust, the protest has been indefinitely postponed awaiting Facebook’s response to the controversy.
Hopefully Facebook will prove cooperative and willing to make changes to appeal to their dedicated users and those who have been affected by the policy will have their accounts reactivated soon.