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Drag Queens Fight Facebook For Right To Use Stage Names

Should We Choose Our Own Facebook Name?

An online petition has been created to encourage Facebook to allow the use of stage names on its users' profiles. The petition, set up by drag queens in Seattle, argues that the identity of an alter-ego can be as important to someone as their birth name, and that entire communities are built on the use of these secondary names.

The petition has over 2,000 signatures.

Facebook currently dictates that every profile has to display a real name. According to a company spokesperson, the rule ensures that cyber bullying and user abuse are kept to a minimum due to people being unable to hide behind the mask of anonymity. In an article on the BBC, the spokesperson suggests other options: “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.”

But the petition’s creators see things very differently. Aside from the argument that forcing them to set up a separate page is also making them spend money on promoting it – as pages without official Facebook sponsorship are unlikely to gain success – the performers argue that making them frequent the site primarily under their birth names is stifling them. One stated that “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.”

There are other issues with using your real name online. People who work with the mentally ill use different names to avoid being discovered by their patients, an event which may lead to ‘problematic interactions’. Young teachers often attempt to change their surnames to avoid being found by their pupils. Most importantly, people who experience a lot of abuse online may switch to a secondary name to try and evade their tormentors – a point which directly contradicts the spokesperson’s justification of the rule being a way to combat online bullying.

Cherry Sur Bete, one of the Seattle drag queens affected, described how important a shift in the rules would be not just for drag queens, but also for other types of performer. Many musicians, artists, actors and stage performers use an alias for a variety of reasons, and a lot of their acts rely on them ‘becoming’ their alter-ego as much as possible. Drag queens take this to the next level, as many of them may be members of the cross-dressing community outside of their performances, and having to revert to their male legal names online is incredibly suppressing.

The main question raised is whether Facebook is an extension of one’s self or a novelty/marketing tool. If it sees itself as the former, which policies like these seem to be attesting to, then the rule makes perfect sense; how can something be an extension of ourselves without sharing our name? If, however, the site still sees itself as a fun tool to make socialising with friends easier, shouldn’t it be up to us what we call ourselves - whether our birth certificates agree or not?


Emile is a postgrad from the University of Saint Mark and Saint John. He’s hoping to break into journalism or publishing, and won’t stop blogging until he’s managed it! Follow him @EmileAtSMF.

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Drag Queens Fight Facebook For Right To Use Stage Names Reviewed by Emile Cole on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Rating: 5
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