Petition Started to Demand Facebook Drop Name Change Policy

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Friday September 19, 2014

In the battle to allow drag queens and transgender individuals to continue using their Facebook profile under their stage name or chosen name, a Seattle drag performer has founded a petition on

"By preventing us from accessing our accounts under our chosen names, this hinders our ability to make a living and develop our performance careers," wrote Olivia LaGarce, who founded the petition.

The petition, which currently has 23,315 supporters, argues that performer's chosen names are an important part of their identities, and how they interact with peers and their audience.

Facebook's quest to build an "authentic" community in which people use their given names is undermining the online community that these performers have built, argues LaGarce.

It also jeopardizes people's safety, opening the door to harassment, abuse and violence, as LaGarce argues, "Facebook claims that the restriction on using 'real' names 'helps keep our community safe' but in fact this restriction enables our communities to be attacked and degraded, both online and off."

In the Bay Area Reporter, drag queen Heklina, whose birth name is Stefan Grygelko, said, "I have crazy family members," who she doesn't want finding her.

And Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the most vocal of the drag queens organizing around this issue, added, "This issue is way bigger than a bunch of drag queens complaining because we can't use our stage names. This policy is discriminatory and potentially dangerous to a variety of Facebook users, including abused and battered women, bullied teens, political activists, sex workers, and especially members of the transgender community; all examples of people who use pseudonyms to ensure their safety and privacy."

Others note that this birth-name policy is at odds with Facebook's move in February to add 50 new options for gender, rather than just male or female. The UK Daily Mail reported at that time that Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison said, "There's going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world."

Now, it seems the good will they created within the transgender community is being completely eroded.

"The enforcement of a real name policy doesn't match their recent expansion of personal profile gender identifiers," Bebe Sweetbriar told the Bay Area Reporter in an e-mail. "I am sure Facebook is using some kind of matrix to search profiles to see if they fit their real name requirement. If I use a transgender female as a gender choice because I have been living as a female, but use my legal name as required by Facebook, which is male, the two don't match. Is that going to raise a red flag with Facebook?"

Huffington Post reports that if Facebook doesn't change its policy, San Francisco's drag queens have promised to organize protests and boycotts at the company's Menlo Park headquarters.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.