Drag performers dress down Facebook over ‘real names’ policy

Drag performers (from left) Lil Ms. Hot Mess, Sister Roma and Heklina, take turns speaking about their battle with Facebook during a news conference at City Hall Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in San Francisco, Calif. Eric Risberg, AP

Drag performers (from left) Lil Ms. Hot Mess, Sister Roma and Heklina, take turns speaking about their battle with Facebook during a news conference at City Hall Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in San Francisco, Calif. Eric Risberg, AP

Drag performers (from left) Lil Ms. Hot Mess, Sister Roma and Heklina, take turns speaking about their battle with Facebook during a news conference at City Hall Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in San Francisco, Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco drag performers are sparring with Facebook over its policy requiring people to use their real names, rather than drag names such as Pollo Del Mar and Heklina. But the world’s biggest social network is not budging from its rules.

In recent weeks, Facebook has been deleting the profiles of self-described drag queens and other performers who use stage names because they did not comply with the social networking site’s requirement that users go by their “real names” on the site.

On Wednesday, Facebook declined to change its policy after meeting with drag performers and a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors. The company said is usually deletes accounts with fake names after investigating user complaints.

“This policy is wrong and misguided,” said Supervisor David Campos, who was flanked by seven drag performers during a press conference at San Francisco City Hall.

The drag performers and others in the LGBT community say many Facebook account holders fear using their real names for a variety of reasons, including threats to their safety and employment.

“I have crazy family members who I don’t want contacting me through Facebook,” said one drag performer who goes by the stage name Heklina.

Facebook said it temporarily restored hundreds of deleted accounts for two weeks. After that they’ll have to either change their name to their real name, or convert their profile to a fan page.

Campos and the drag performers, led by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – a San Francisco group of drag performers and activists that’s been around since 1979 – say they plan another meeting with Facebook and are hopeful that the company will ultimately alter its policy.

If Facebook doesn’t change its policy, the drag performers at San Francisco City Hall Wednesday said they would organize protests and boycotts.

“Abused women, bullied teens, transgender people… (there are) a million different people with a million different reasons to use fake names,” said Sister Roma, a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Facebook says it policy “helps prevent bad behavior, while creating a safer and more accountable environment.”

The company says performers and others have other ways of keeping their stage identities on the site, including creating pages that are meant for businesses and public figures.

Many in the drag community are professional performers who…

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