Our Names Are Real: On Facebook’s “Real Names” Policy

September 29, 2014

Our community ain’t havin’ it. Many of us in the LGBTQ community are pushing back against Facebook’s renewed enforcement of the “real names” policy. Facebook stipulates that a personal account holder must use
“your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license, or student ID.” In some cases, Facebook has gone as far as to require a copy of a driver’s license. Facebook justifies this practice thusly: “Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe.”

But this policy doesn’t keep our community safe. It can actually compromise our safety, as this infographic makes clear. Furthermore, our identities are self-determined. Naming is self-determination. Facebook cannot dictate what our “real identities” are — the company can only bully us into submitting to a policy that insists our state-certified names are singularly legitimate.

But some of us are organizing mobilizations to reverse this policy. As the #MyNameIs campaign asserts, “This issue affects a lot of marginalized, creative, and professional communities, including transgender people, bullied youth, activists, LGBTQ people who aren’t out everywhere, survivors of domestic violence and stalking, migrants, sex workers, artists who work under pseudonyms, and various professionals who work in sensitive professions (eg. mental health, criminal justice, etc.) who may want to interact with friends without being found by clients.”

We at One+Love stand with our community and with all those who will be harmed by this crackdown. The policy runs counter to how we build community and how we may be known to the people in our lives, triggering disruption that will force many community members into isolation. Our names and our boundaries should be sacrosanct, especially within a forum that is dedicated to and benefits from users’ self-expression. We should be able to choose how we are known. Our chosen names often reflect our cultural identities and our lived experiences; they can protect us and express our creativity. We are who we tell you we are. We are #mynameis.

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