Facebook apologized to drag queens and other members of the LGBTQ community last Wednesday following a meeting with activists who challenged the social networking site’s recent mandate that users provide only their legal names, instead of the names that they have chosen for themselves.
In a lengthy statement posted to his Facebook page on Oct 1, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said he wanted to apologize “to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we've put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks.”
In the statement, Cox explains that an individual user on Facebook reported several hundred of these kinds of accounts as fake. When a profile gets flagged as fake, the user is asked to verify that they are using a real name by submitting a form of identification, such as a library card or a piece of mail. The policy, according to Cox, is meant to prevent bullying and abuse of other users.
Drag queens spoke out against the company’s policy after receiving these messages. Well-known drag performer Sister Roma took to Twitter in protest, using the hashtag #MyNameIsRoma to bring attention to the policy. Others created a petition on Change.org, which has more than 35,000 signatures.
“Our chosen names are an important part of our identities and how we interact with our peers and audiences,” the petition reads. “We build our networks, community, and audience under the names we have chosen, and forcing us to switch our names after years of operating under them has caused nothing but confusion and pain by preventing us from presenting our profiles under the names we have built them up with.”
The community’s reactions to Facebook’s apology have been very positive. In an email to The Guardian, Lil Miss Hot Mess, a well-known drag queen, writes, “I’m beyond thrilled that Facebook has offered a genuine apology and agreed that our real names are the ones we make for ourselves.”
“This is a huge victory not only for us queens, but also for the countless others we’ve met along the way whose names don’t always match their ID cards, but allow them to express themselves with less fear and more fabulousness,” she said.