Facebook Cedes Ground to Drag Queens on "Real Name" Policy

Heklina at Trannyshack LA
Heklina at Trannyshack LA
Lina Lecaro

By Lina Lecaro

After fierce blowback from a disgruntled community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender folk, and more, Facebook has eased enforcement of its "real name" policy.

Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said in a Facebook post that the whole situation took the company by surprise. Some individual decided to mass-report the drag queens, kings, etc., to Facebook as using fake names. In most of the fake-name reports the company receives, Cox says, are legitimate, so the company treated them as they always do.

"These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99 percent of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more -- so we didn't notice the pattern," Cox writes.

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"We're taking measures to provide much more deliberate customer service to those accounts that get flagged so that we can manage these in a less abrupt and more thoughtful way. To everyone affected by this, thank you for working through this with us and helping us to improve the safety and authenticity of the Facebook experience for everyone."

However, Cox stood by the real name policy, saying that it helped give Facebook a feeling of real-life accountability, where provocative and radical speech can't be cloaked in anonymity. Moving forward, the company will continue to insist people use real names or have their accounts suspended.

In the past few weeks, Facebook had mercilessly cracked down on users who don't use their real names on their personal profiles.

As a result, numerous drag queens and musicians had their pages taken down.

They fought back, prompting speculation that a lack of flexibility on Facebook's part would lead to a mass exodus.

Cross-dressing performers, of course, tend to have colorful, obviously fake stage names. They often have fan pages but tend to use their drag names on their personal profiles as well.

Facebook, at first, wasn't entirely cooperative.

A number of performers from San Francisco (including Heklina, Sister Roma, BeBe SweetBriar, and Lil Miss Hot Mess) met with Facebook at its Menlo Park headquarters. Facebook agreed to give them a two-week grace period to switch over to their real names, or have their profiles removed for good.

This wasn't much of a concession, says Steven "Heklina" Grygelko, best known for SF and L.A. club Trannyshack.

"They trotted out their gay and transgendered employees who said they understood our feelings but that they had this policy for a reason and they weren't going to capitulate," he said. "They claim it has to do with stalkers. They don't want stalkers to hide behind fake names. But their policy is so flawed."

No one wants to be stalked by someone using a fake profile, but choosing a pseudonym in itself can be a way of avoiding stalking and harassment. From gay bashers to ex-lovers to family members who don't understand certain lifestyles, there are countless reasons not to use one's real name.

And it's not just drag queens or people trying to hide: Countless DJs, musicians, and artists make their livings off their personas, personas they create and market by a chosen moniker for a reason.

DJ and radio host Howie Pyro, who's played with Johnny Thunders, Danzig and D Generation, was locked out of his account recently and says he felt violated.

"I've been using this name for over three decades. My mother calls me Howie Pyro," he says. "I've had this page for several years. I've made contacts on it, shared things on it that are only there and I promote myself and get jobs from it."

Pyro adds that the worst part is the social network's lack of communication. "It was an automated window that popped up. There was no one to voice concerns with or contact given to dispute this with," he says. "They held my information hostage and I was forced to give them what they wanted."

After switching over to his name Howie Kusten, he did get his page back a few days later. He shared his frustration on the site along with a profile picture that read,"Hello My Name is Howie Pyro- No matter what Facebook says." Soon after, a petition to stop the change started going around as well as a hashtag campaign, #mynameis.

Other personalities recently forced to provide their "real" monikers include Disco Bloodbath author and blogger James St. James (a.k.a. James Clark), Cevin Key from Skinny Puppy, Haunted Garage singer Dukey Flyswatter, DJ Bazooka Joe, and countless burlesque and performance artists.  

Facebook Cedes Ground to Drag Queens on "Real Name" Policy

Transgender punk icon Jayne County announced this week that she will shortly be off Facebook permanently. In solidarity, many more seem to be following her lead.

Maryiln Manson's Jeordie White -- who goes by Twiggy Ramirez in the band, but uses his real name on the site -- posted a goodbye Facebook note as well.

A new social platform billing itself as the anti-Facebook, called Ello, is getting a lot of buzz and seems promising, but it's still in Beta mode.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

9 Tips for Using A Fake ID To Get Into A Show 10 Classic Punk Records That Actually Kind of Suck The 10 Coolest, Scariest, Freakiest Songs About Heroin The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All Time


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Cross-dressing performers, of course, tend to have colorful, obviously fake stage names. They often have fan pages but tend to use their drag names on their personal profiles as well.

Last week, a number of them from San Francisco (including Heklina, Sister Roma, BeBe SweetBriar, and Lil Miss Hot Mess) met with Facebook at its Menlo Park headquarters. Facebook agreed to give them a two-week grace period to switch over to their real names, or have their profiles removed for good.

This wasn't much of a concession, says Steven "Heklina" Grygelko, best known for SF and L.A. club Trannyshack. "They trotted out their gay and transgendered employees who said they understood our feelings but that they had this policy for a reason and they weren't going to capitulate," he said. "They claim it has to do with stalkers. They don't want stalkers to hide behind fake names. But their policy is so flawed."

No one wants to be stalked by someone using a fake profile, but choosing a pseudonym in itself can be a way of avoiding stalking and harassment. From gay bashers to ex-lovers to family members who don't understand certain lifestyles, there are countless reasons not to use one's real name.

And it's not just drag queens or people trying to hide: Countless DJs, musicians, and artists make their livings off their personas, personas they create and market by a chosen moniker for a reason.

DJ and radio host Howie Pyro, who's played with Johnny Thunders, Danzig and D Generation, was locked out of his account recently and says he felt violated. "I've been using this name for over three decades. My mother calls me Howie Pyro," he says. "I've had this page for several years. I've made contacts on it, shared things on it that are only there and I promote myself and get jobs from it."

Pyro adds that the worst part is the social network's lack of communication. "It was an automated window that popped up. There was no one to voice concerns with or contact given to dispute this with," he says. "They held my information hostage and I was forced to give them what they wanted."

After switching over to his name Howie Kusten, he did get his page back a few days later. He shared his frustration on the site along with a profile picture that read,"Hello My Name is Howie Pyro- No matter what Facebook says." Soon after, a petition to stop the change started going around as well as a hashtag campaign, #mynameis.

Other personalities recently forced to provide their "real" monikers include Disco Bloodbath author and blogger James St. James (a.k.a. James Clark), Cevin Key from Skinny Puppy, Haunted Garage singer Dukey Flyswatter, DJ Bazooka Joe, and countless burlesque and performance artists. More are expected to be added to this list after the two week grace period.  

Facebook Cedes Ground to Drag Queens on "Real Name" Policy

Transgender punk icon Jayne County announced this week that she will shortly be off Facebook permanently. In solidarity, many more seem to be following her lead.

Maryiln Manson's Jeordie White -- who goes by Twiggy Ramirez in the band, but uses his real name on the site -- posted a goodbye Facebook note yesterday as well.

While many entertainers will grudgingly stay on Facebook (at least until something better comes along) the vibe on the site these days is overwhelmingly negative. And the general consensus is that Google+ and the revamped Myspace aren't very good alternatives.

A new social platform billing itself as the anti-Facebook, called Ello, is getting a lot of buzz and seems promising, but it's still in Beta mode.

David Accomazzo contributed to this blog.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

9 Tips for Using A Fake ID To Get Into A Show 10 Classic Punk Records That Actually Kind of Suck The 10 Coolest, Scariest, Freakiest Songs About Heroin The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All Time


Like Up on the Sun on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest local music news and conversation.


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