The San Francisco drag queens who picked a fight with Facebook last year are back at it.
And they’ve made allies with other people who have been affected by the site’s “real name” policy, which requires users to publicly list a name that they can prove they use every day. On Monday, they plan to get on a bus with Native Americans and advocates representing domestic abuse victims to protest in front of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
The drag queens say they’re happy to use their notoriety to draw attention to those who don’t have a bigger platform or who aren’t able to speak out publicly, such as abuse survivors who want to use the site under an alias to stay connected to loved ones or support groups. And they say the Facebook feature that lets users report a name violation is being used for bullying instead.
“I wouldn't be doing this if it just affected drag queens, because I would have just shut down my account and figured out a different way to connect with people,” said Lil Miss Hot Mess, a drag queen based in San Francisco who said her Facebook account was shut down for two weeks after users reported she didn’t list her real name.
Hot Mess is part of a coalition organizing the protest. So far some 1,400 people have said they’ll be attending the protest on an event page hosted on, of all places, Facebook.
She declined to provide her legal name because she said it would defeat the entire purpose of this campaign.
This all started last September when Facebook abruptly shut down several profiles that belonged to drag queens after users reported them for using their stage names as opposed to the names on their birth certificates.
It was the wrong group of profiles for Facebook to shut down.
“Pretty quickly we started hearing from people all over the world who were reported and blocked from Facebook,” said Hot Mess.
A young Native American woman named Deloria Many Gray Horses says she had to provide Facebook with a passport, marriage license, and birth certificate to be able to keep her account after a number of people reported she was using a fake name.
Many Gray Horses became a target after she launched a petition urging a Mississippi high school’s marching band to stop using headdresses as part of their uniform.
The people that disagreed with her petition reported her to Facebook using the fake name option, with just three clicks.
“This happens often to native people with traditional names that have been translated in to the English language,” said Jacqueline Keeler, who started an online awareness campaign called #IndigenizeZuckerberg after Many Grey Horses, her cousin, was banned from Facebook.
Facebook product chief Chris Cox in October publicly apologized for how Facebook’s real name policy has affected LGBT people.
“We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we're going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were,” Cox wrote in a Facebook message.”
“For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess,” Cox said.
But the drag queens say nothing has happened since then.
Lil Miss Hot Mess says profiles continue to be shut down. The coalition of drag queens has heard from at least 3,000 people whose profiles were shut down since September. They’ve collected some of those stories on the site they launched called My Name Is.
People shared deeply personal stories on the site.
"I refuse to use the adoptive name given to me on any public forum or social media page due to the fact that I had an abusive step father and I do not want that man attached to my life," wrote one man who identified himself as Boogy on the site.
Hot Mess said she's sure there are thousands of other people around the world who have lost their profiles and haven't spoken out.
“Facebook [executives] made a very public apology but it was a lie. Nothing has changed, in fact it's gotten worse. That's why we have taken up the fight again, this time following through with our original protest,” a drag queen who goes by the name Sister Roma wrote in a Facebook status update on Saturday.
A Facebook spokesperson told Fusion they require authentic names that people use every day to keep the social media site safe.
“Over the last several months, we’ve made some significant improvements in the implementation of this standard, including enhancing the overall experience, expanding the options available for verifying an authentic name and allowing people continued access to their profiles while they verify their name,” read the statement sent to Fusion.
“We have more work to do, and our teams will continue to prioritize these improvements,” the spokesperson said.
In the meantime, Hot Mess has launched a petition to get FaceBook employees banned from the New York and San Francisco pride parades “due to their unfair and discriminatory policies.”