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Facebook Begins Enforcing 'Real Name' Policy, Disproportionately Affecting GLBT Performers

My Name Is Roma

Facebook requires members to use their real names, a fact of which most folks are likely unaware due to the policy largely being unenforced, a decision quite possibly made due to the substantial blowback Google Plus received with their mandatory real name policy that they only recently rescinded. However, Facebook is now cracking down on their policy and the fallout is a disproportionate effect on LGBT individuals and drag performers in particular.

In a remarkably tone-deaf response in an interview with Business Insider, a Facebook representative said:

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.

Fan Pages and Musician/Group categories are how stars like Lady Gaga, Madonna, RuPaul, and will.i.am keep their obvious stage names. 

Sister Roma of the San Francisco chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is presently one of the more high-profile dissenters to the policy. When Roma, who now has to go by Michael Williams in order for his Facebook account to remain active, was told to create a Fan page he responded

I use this site to keep up with friends and simply don't want employers or crazy stalker people to log on and search me . I want my friends to find me...I detest the idea of having a fan page. I'm not fucking Britney Spears. I have friends, not fans.

Saying additionally:

Bottom Line: I've been Sister Roma for 27 years. Ask anyone what my name is, in or out of drag, and they will tell you it's Roma. #MyNameIsRoma

Which brings to the forefront something that Facebook may not be considering: safety. While no doubt some users adopt pseudonyms for the purposes of trolling or harassment, no small number adopt fake names to protect their privacy and safety, and when that privacy is broken it can lead to disastrous results as one particularly devastating incident on Google Plus revealed.

This mandatory outing could be especially destructive for LGBT youth who need the protection of anonymity to connect with friends and resources without subjecting themselves to the hatred of peers...or even their own family. Going to Sister Roma again, she posted a message she received from a friend when the name change went into effect:

Here is an example of the comments i have received regarding Facebook's legal name change policy:

"The name I was born with is the name of a victim, a lonely little boy who hated himself.

That is NOT who I am. 

#MyNameIsJayd"

Adding to all of the chaos and shady business, Roma went to reply to a message from Sister Unity and found that the entire thread had been censored, along with other conversations that had discussed Facebook's name change policy. 

Then there's the whole question of "How does Facebook enforce this?" Unlike Google Plus, users don't have to submit photographic proof of identity when they sign up, so it seems to be that enforcement his highly subjective and is going to target people with obvious stage names rather than people who are simply creating a fake profile with a real-sounding name. Enforcement is also very spotty; Roma and some Sisters have been forced to change their names, while other Sisters like Nancy Drew Blood and performers like Heklina have their drag names intact. 

A Change.org petition has been started to demand that Facebook allow performers of all types be allowed to use their stage names and is seeking 2,800 signatures. As of right now, Facebook hasn't commented any further on the issue.


First Person: #WhyILeft What I First Thought Was a Consensual Leather Relationship

Vancouver_Pride_Parade_-_Flag_(3816236455)

#WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft have gone viral on Twitter since the Ray Rice domestic violence revelations. Our friend David M posted his story of surviving domestic abuse on Facebook earlier today and has given Towleroad permission to share it.

I was helped by several wonderful people when I was a homeless boy, discarded by my LDS family. There was Jim, the leatherman who introduced me properly to the leather scene, the man from whom I earned my first leathers. And there was Miss Gladys, the Black trans sex worker who took me in and gave me a home for a time, who was to me like a mother, and who made the best fried chicken I have ever had.

Then there was Paul. He gave me a place to live, too. But it came at a price. He beat me, raped me, abused me emotionally and financially, and lent me out to his friends. All under the guise of a BDSM relationship, which I wanted desperately. He taught me I had to start out living as his slave if I wanted to be in the scene. I was young and stupid and I believed him. I thought it was normal. And I was afraid of being back on the street, where I was already being raped and abused, anyway. That's #WhyIStayed, far too long. But one day I found the courage to leave.

We were watching tv downstairs by the pool. I locked him into the room, went upstairs and threw my clothes into a bag, and walked out the door. I had no money, no friends, nowhere to go. But I walked out. I walked 50 miles to Tampa where I knew there was a leather bar and other leathermen. That weekend, I went to the local bar, and I started telling people my story. I met Jim, who I mentioned earlier. Jim was an old school (some would say Old Guard) leatherman. He gave me a place to live, and this time there were no strings attached. I would have slept with him; I was used to sleeping with men for food or shelter. But for the  year I lived with him, he never touched me. He taught me how to have a healthy, consensual leather relationship. He taught me the difference between BDSM and abuse. But back to the story...

A few months after I had left, I was at the bar, this was the 2606 in Tampa which some of you may know. Jim was not with me, so I was alone when Paul walked in and tried to get me to leave with him. After being afraid of him for so long, I wasn't afraid any longer. I yelled at him; I told him I was going nowhere with him.

The music kept playing, of course, but all around me men went quiet and turned toward us. The pool games stopped. The tension in the room was palpable. Paul grabbed me by the arm and began to pull me toward the door. And suddenly, something magical happened. The leathermen in that bar closed ranks in front of us. And all around us. Tampa had a small leather community, just the one bar, so I already knew these men, and they knew my story. They knew who Paul was and why he was there. As ethical leathermen, they stepped up to protect me.

Paul didn't really understand what was going on, but for the first time I saw fear on *his* face. I experienced a sudden realization of how small and pitiful he really was. I pulled my arm from his grip. I was shaking not with fear but with anger; I leaned in close to him and I told him that these were my friends, that this was my bar, and that he was not welcome here. He should leave, and never come back. He never did.

To this day I still ask myself #WhyILeft. But I really don't know. Why was it that one day I suddenly had the courage that I had never had before? I don't know. I'm just glad I did. I wish I had done it much sooner.

David M. is now married to his longtime partner. He teaches and mentors young men entering the leather scene. He says the most important thing he teaches them is how to tell the difference between healthy BDSM and abuse. He recommends consulting the site Kink Abuse for more information on the topic.

From time to time Towleroad runs first person stories spotted on social media we think will be of interest to the broader community. Hat tip to Jim Landé for spotting this one. If you come across a particularly timely, moving, amazing or otherwise worthy post, please let us know through our contact form or drop us an email at tips at towleroad dot com.

Previously in this series:
How Three Restaurant Workers Restored a Gay Man's Faith in Humanity [tlrd]

[image kyle pierce - wikimedia commons]


Facebook Donates $10,000 to Utah's Anti-gay Attorney General Sean Reyes

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes' re-election campaign got a healthy influx of cash from Facebook, Inc. back in May, according to disclosures filed with the Utah Lieutenant Governor's office.

ReyesThe company, which is usually a strong corporate backer of LGBT equality, donated $10,000 to the man who vowed late last year to 'spend whatever it takes' to prevent gay couples from obtaining marriage licenses in his state.

QSalt Lake reports:

When asked about the donation to the person who has arguably become the face of legal opposition to marriage equality in America, a Facebook spokesperson responded with:

“Facebook has a strong record on LGBT issues and that will not change, but we make decisions about which candidates to support based on the entire portfolio of issues important to our business, not just one. A contribution to a candidate does not mean that we agree with every policy or position that candidate takes. We made this donation for the same reason we’ve donated to Attorneys General on the opposite side of this issue – because they are committed to fostering innovation and an open Internet.”

LGBT supporters unsatisfied with Facebook's response have launched an online petition calling for the company to "publicly decry this bigotry and make an equal or greater contribution to the campaign of Charles Stormont who is also seeking the office of Utah Attorney General."

Earlier this month, we reported that Reyes had appealed a Tenth Circuit's decision striking down the state's gay marriage ban directly to the U.S. Supreme court 


Conservative Extremist Janet Porter Launches 'ReaganBook, the Facebook for Patriots': VIDEO

Noted young earth creationist, homophobe, and opposer of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 Janet Porter is building the Reagan-themed social network that the country has been clamoring for.

ReaganBookReaganbook--so clever--is a digital gathering space designed to help facilitate discussion and community organizing around conservative social issues. Citing our 40th president’s civic ethos Reaganbook implores its users not to “Grant your social media any power to collect, sell, exploit and divulge your private information.”

One might think that creating the infrastructure to sustain a social network would be a daunting task requiring an impressive amount of technical knowhow and coding skills. One would be wrong. Reaganbook’s current “About Us” and “Policy” pages are still populated with lorem ipsum dummy text, and the beginnings of what seems to be a grocery list, respectively. Still though, the site currently boasts a growing userbase of over 1400 people, and fun quizzes such as: Who Said It: “Reagan or Hitler?

“It’s the e-mail, it’s the Facebook for patriots.” Porter explained to a crowd at the Ohio Liberty Coalition’s Reload 4 Liberty event. “We’re tearing down walls. Get it?”

We totally get it. Registration is open to the public and will absolutely, positively in no way, shape, or form lead to inbox spam.

UPDATE: Since the original posting of this piece Reaganbook's management has put the entire site into "offline mode" and released the following statement:

"Thank you to all those who participated in the pre-release of ReaganBook.com Your participation is helping us build a more secure site. Thank you! Please be patient while we make the necessary changes to keep the site free from obscenity, pornography, and those intent on the destruction of life, liberty, and the family. We will be opening the doors again soon with additional protections in place. As Reagan taught us, trust, but verify."

Watch a clip of Janet Porter pitching the digital performance art piece that is Reaganbook,
AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Conservative Extremist Janet Porter Launches 'ReaganBook, the Facebook for Patriots': VIDEO" »


Saudi Man Sentenced To Three Years And 450 Lashes For 'The Practice Of Homosexuality'

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to three years in prison and 450 lashes for “the practise of homosexuality,” after attempting to arrange to meet another man using Twitter, reports LGBTQ Nation.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transexual Rights UAEArabic newspaper Al-Watan said that “the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice...tracked down the owner of the account” of the man who was trying to arrange sex with another man.

The man’s phone, which contained pornographic images, was also confiscated.

Abdulla, the chair of the United Arab Emirates LGBT group said:

“It is infuriating and disheartening when a country that was elected not too long ago to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council arrogantly and nonchalantly violates its core principles and harms its own citizens. Not only is the fundamental human right for privacy breached but the entrapment and sentence also breaches several human rights charters."

Abdulla continued that “if the man survives this ordeal he will find himself an outcast and will be in danger for life after he completes this harsh sentence.”

Saudi Arabia is known for its harsh anti-hay laws. In 2011, Ali Ahmed Asseri, a gay former Saudi diplomat living in Los Angeles in fear for his life, was denied asylum. Asseri's appeal earlier this year was successful.


YouTube Complaints 2014 - VIDEO

YouTube Complaints 2014

YouTube Complaints 2014 is here.

Watch Barely Political bring the complaints of regular YouTube users to life.

"I've seen all the ads for YouTube on tv, billboards, even the one they wrapped around the subway. So basically you've got me. I'm in!  I'll take one YouTube."

"Um...there's only one YouTube."

"Okay. How much?"

"Um...I don't know. Several billion dollars?"

"Don't you think you should put that in the ads? Good try but no thank you.  I'll buy a book instead...a Facebook."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "YouTube Complaints 2014 - VIDEO" »


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