What’s in a drag name? Way more than just an alter ego, if you’re to believe Facebook’s excuse for suspending accounts in a sweep that prompted an online petition and now includes Atlanta drag queens and other queer performers.
Popular performer Edie Cheezburger (top photo, left) woke up to an account suspension on Monday morning. It remained shut down until the profile name was changed to the performer’s given name, Andrew Jones.
Cheezburger’s Other Show co-host, Jaye Lish (top photo, right) elected not to update her profile page at all and is staying off Facebook. By Monday afternoon, Cheezburger created a commercial Edie Cheezburger Page but decided to join Lishe and sign off of Facebook until the issue is resolved.
“I'm going to be signing off Facebook in protest of the forced name change. #fuckthis #imout,” reads Cheezburger’s final status on the individual profile page.
Serving legal name realness
Facebook’s real-name policy has always been in effect, though it’s been infrequently enforced when it comes to drag personalities until recently. The policy ostensibly exists to keep the social network “safe,” but it’s anything but that for some queer performers, says DJ King Atlas (bottom photo). He received the same notice and added a new profile name preceding his DJ moniker to reactivate his profile.
“When I came out to my parents in 2003, one of the things they told me was, ‘We do not care to know anything about your personal life,’” Atlas tells Project Q. “I knew then that I would never be able to use my government issued ID on social media out of fear of further ridicule from my family. Living in the South, employers can legally discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community and many of us involved with ATL nightlife have to keep our identities separate from the workplace out of fear of losing our jobs.”
Beyond performers who feel awkward or fear backlash at work or home, other queers may be in actual danger of outing, stalkers or worse, Atlas adds.
“This is a safety issue on so many levels,” he says. “We all know people who identify with a different name that isn't the one on their birth certificate. Facebook name policing puts members of our community – not to mention victims of rape, abuse and violence – at risk of being outed and we should all be concerned because we all know someone out there who uses a different name for protection.”
But the Facebook alter egos are also about carefully crafted brands, and it’s a big deal, Atlas says.
“I've spent years cultivating a persona that I strongly identify with and I've built a career on it.”
Is it really just about money?
Perhaps Atlas' career as a professional DJ is exactly what interests Facebook. As strident as Facebook appears to be about safety on profile pages, it’s apparently totally fine with them if queens and other performers start commercial entertainer Pages, according to Facebook’s policy.
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.
Therein lies the real rub, according to some critics who complained to Slate last week when New York and San Francisco queens felt the squeeze.
Speculation about the motivations behind the purge ranges from homophobia to money—some queens point out that Facebook stands to gain financially if artists switch from personal profiles to Fan Pages, which often require paying for post promotion to make them worthwhile.
“These queens can’t pay to promote their posts on a Page,” notes Legendary Children founder and artist Jon Dean, who along with his drag collaborators is among the local gays up in arms.
Slate points out that Google+ caved to performers who protested a similar policy. Of course, as the network trying to play catch-up and losing, perhaps Google had more to lose.
Bottom photo via