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The Moyo blog features diverse voices and perspectives related to our topics.

Facebook's Name Policy and the Trans Community

Posted March 28, 2016

When a person comes out as transgender, they have to fight against multiple cultural biases and expectations to live as their authentic self. For instance, finding work, healthcare, and safe housing can be difficult for trans people. But did you ever think that Facebook could be a barrier for the transgender community in living their authentic selves? Cora Love, who Moyo interviewed, was kicked off Facebook because although she was using the name that fit her identity, it wasn’t “verifiable” according to Facebook standards. Fortunately, Cora now has her Facebook profile back, but it’s worth looking at the history of this policy to understand the complexity and difficulty for the transgender community to live as their authentic selves.

A couple of years ago, there was a major controversy over Facebook’s name policy because someone had reported hundreds of drag queens, drag kings, and trans people as “fake” on Facebook. Per official Facebook policy, these people were then required to “prove” their identities by providing a copy of their government-issued photo ID. The problem with this, as many people saw it, was that the name policy isn’t enforced unless reported. So, many believe that trans people and drag kings and queens were targeted on the website.

Facebook addressed the pain they caused to those who have been suspended or kicked off due to the name policy. Facebook Chief Production Officer Chris Cox posted a lengthy apology. According to Facebook, they want everyone to use their authentic name on the social media website. That means the name they identify with and use in their everyday life. But are they making it difficult to do so? The Facebook Name Policy is: 

This isn’t just an issue for the trans community, but also affects other LGBTQ+ identifying people and even Native Americans. Here are some more articles about the controversy surrounding Facebook name policies:  

  1. Sister Roma, Drag Performer and Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, Talks About Leading Fight Against Facebook
  2. Facebook Still Suspending Native Americans Over ‘Real Name’ Policy

The blocking of Facebook profiles based on the name policy is still continuing in 2016. Below is a picture of a February 2016 email from Facebook to Sister Ann Wenita Morelove, a member of the Music City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence after Sister Ann asked about getting blocked by Facebook:

Once Sister Ann was able to explain the situation to Facebook, they reinstated the profile. While Facebook still retains their name policy which protects from misuse of the site, they have begun to open up the verification process. This Community Support Page on Facebook details a new feature that allows users to describe a special circumstance when verifying their names. One of the special circumstances is allowing a user to say they are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, which will then provide the opportunity for users to go by their authentic name. Facebook recognizes this isn't a perfect solution, but a beginning place to address the name policy issue. 

As we engage with the topic Gender & Identity, surprising issues (like this one) come up, leaving us questioning how we can influence culture to show love to all people. Facebook has begun to address the needs of the LGBTQ+ folks on their website, hopefully signaling a shift in accepting the authentic identities of the transgender community. Facebook's shift to be more inclusive is promising, but we could probably do better, don't you think?