Friday, September 19, 2014

Facebook Name Change

Hey friends,

It's me, Griff. The name you see above this is my birth name. It's pretty scary to show it publicly, but I'm doing so in solidarity with the drag queens and genderfluid folks that Facebook is currently discriminating against (see the link). I'd like to ask that you contact Facebook to let them know you are opposed to no-exceptions enforcement. If you're not convinced, read below:

I just learned that Facebook has officially decided to continue enforcing, without exception, their Legal Names Only policy. The one I ignored in high school when I first started to feel safe using my new name, my real name. The one many of you are ignoring right now, for many reasons: to keep your personal life private from your employers, to avoid people from your past, or, like I did, to affirm your real identity. Even after meeting with people whose physical safety and mental health are compromised by the legal name requirement, Facebook has stood by its discriminatory policy.

So I wanted all of you to know:

Since Facebook relies mostly on complaints to police names that get past their initial checking mechanisms, this policy disproportionately affects out, proud, public performers, who are most likely to be the targets of anonymous hate. That's why it's coming down hard on drag queens right now: they're visible, they're fabulous, and they're ... a threat to public safety? Facebook is targeting a historically disenfranchised group, that few people identify with, but many make fun of. That makes it easy to say: this doen't matter to US. Even if ONLY drag queens could be affected, it does matter! Depriving any of us of rights deprives us all.

But it's not just drag queens. I changed my name so that you'd know that you know someone affected by this policy. I'm one of the lucky ones: I was able to change my legal name years ago (so actually, I'm breaking Facebook's policy now ... ha). But I changed my Facebook name long before that. I was scared, sad, and confused a lot of the time. Being able to express myself online helped.

I was never physically unsafe. I never experienced bullying. I had (and have!) a loving, supportive family and a strong network of friends (thanks guys). Few of us are so lucky.

Imagine the high schooler biting his nails right now, wondering if his bullies are going to report him to Facebook and make him choose between Facebook -- his connection to new, supportive friends -- and his safety at school.

Imagine the office worker wondering if her estranged sister -- who she came out to in a moment of hope -- is going to report her and make her choose between Facebook and her job.

My brothers and sisters have enough problems to deal with. Being excluded from the world's largest social network is such a stupid, unecessary one to add.

Nor is it just transfolk. Imagine the victims of domestic violence or stalking. This policy probably serves to protect some of them from abusers who could otherwise anonymously harrass them -- I don't know the ins and outs of its enforcement and I'm sure it does some good. But enforcing it without exception can only hurt us all.

"Why not just delete your Facebook?" It's a good option, certainly better than having to use a legal name when that and one's real name are not the same. I might end up doing that myself, although I don't want to. Facebook is -- for better or worse -- my news service, my time-killer and my primary means of keeping up with faraway friends. Everyone deserves the chance to use it. Without fearing for their safety.

Please contact Facebook and tell them NOT to enforce this policy without exception.