Drag queens and members of Manchester’s trans community are rallying against Facebook as the social media giant move to DELETE their profiles if they do not use their ‘real names’.
Many drag performers have seen their profile deleted by Facebook, who are demanding everyone use their ‘birth name’ if they want their account to remain on the site.
Opponents have challenged the tech giant’s authority to dictate identity, and believe the latest ruling leaves vulnerable groups more open to abuse and threatens their individuality.
Manchester drag artist Dr Michael Atkins, who also goes by Cheddar Gawjus, told MM: “I suggest that Mark Zuckerberg read a few more books about identity, or maybe just get out and meet a few of the people he is perpetuating risks for.
— Cheddar Gorgeous (@CheddarGawjus) June 1, 2014
“Facebook gained popularity as an open and versatile platform of online communication. Now that it holds dominance in the market it can apply whatever restrictions it likes that are able to increase its overall profit potential.
“I don’t necessarily think Facebook is intentionally attempting to attack these communities but it is ignoring the consequences of its own policies.”
The protest against the changes originally started in San Francisco, but has since been taken up worldwide; a petition with asking Facebook to revoke the policy has received 32,000 thousand signatures.
The changes are down to security and have been put in place to prohibit any one operating under a false name on the website, although observers have questioned the impact this will have on those using the website for darker purposes.
Cheddar said: “The cases that the policy was designed to assist in simply won’t be affected
“Individuals involved in sexual abuse of children for example often have fairly mundane profiles, usually set up as children, that simply won’t raise suspicion and thus generate a complaint.
“Those in the public eye like drag queens two often have intentionally absurd names are easy targets yet not causing harm to their followers.”
— Cheddar Gorgeous (@CheddarGawjus) May 30, 2014
For many, changing a name on Facebook is a good way to distance themselves from family, peers and others on the website who take issue with their identity.
After going back to their birth name, people with complex social media identities may be susceptible to online abuse.
Trans spokesperson and Sparkle organiser Jenny Anne Bishop told MM: “It has a big impact on the trans community, because for a lot people on their journey alongside community and or medical support they are encouraged to start transitioning, and way to do that is by changing your name.
“You may to that online before you do legally because sometime people want to see whether a name feels right and get views from their friends. However people can now maliciously report them as they’ve changed from their legal name.
“If some people do get their profiles deleted they will have lost all their contacts, and often on the net you get people are very fragile. You take away some of their support and they resort to self-harm and even suicide, it’s that serious.
“Removing somebody’s name especially when they are trans is like completely erasing their identity.”
At present, Facebook is standing firm on the matter, claiming its real-name policy created a safer environment on the network.
Those without their birth names on Facebook have two weeks to change their profile names.
Cheddar said: “It is critically important to remember that this isn’t just about Drag Queens.
Activists, therapists, solicitors, whistle blowers and others in the public eye may use an alternative name to communicate with followers and loved ones whilst keeping themselves safe.”
He added: “By forcing these individuals to either ‘come out’ or be removed Facebook has essentially created a system that allows certain at risk minority voices to be silenced.”
Main image courtesy of Northern Face Photo via Cheddar Gawjus, with thanks.