Before I go any further, please consider this name:
Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is someone’s actual legal name. Perhaps you heard nearly every TV news anchor and late night television host try to wrap their tongues around that name when he was arrested here in Madison just over 4 years ago (those crazy pronunciation attempts went viral).
I won’t get into Mr… uh, Bob-Bop’s name or why he legally changed it, though judging from his
use of illegal pharmaceuticals criminal record (including earlier this year) he’s been making it more notorious than it should be. I will, however, think of the likelihood that if he is not currently incarcerated as of this writing (wherever he may be now), the powers that be at Facebook would likely not be giving him a hard time just by his name alone. I’ll explain…
Mr… uh, Bop-Bop’s name sprang into my head when I came across this story about a transgender woman getting flack from Facebook over the nature of the name she currently goes by:
Now, I’ve mentioned before on here that I do not have a Facebook account. There are various reasons for that, from privacy concerns to data sharing to thinking Mark Zuckerberg is a total prick. (Yeah, I got that from The Social Network.) But what really still turns me off of Facebook is their past attempts to require its users to list their real names, or to use their term, “the authentic name they use in real life.” Understandably, one of Facebook’s reasons for the requirement is to make sure users are responsible for the good, bad, or especially downright hateful things they post on the site. However, they probably never considered the security and peace of mind that using a “preferred name” on Facebook would provide. From the drag performer with a readily recognizable stage moniker to someone who’s recovering from an abusive relationship and desires an online alias, there’s something about how a preferred name provides the protection of anonymity.
At least Facebook, after lots of complaints, modified their real name stance late last year. Yes, they still prefer that their users have “a user name that’s the same as the name they use in real life,” but now they’ve set up a tool that will allow users, if Facebook challenges the nature of their user name, to indicate a special circumstance that prevents them from doing so (an abuse, stalking, or bullying victim; a part of an ethnic minority; someone, such as drag performers, that identify with the LGBTQ community).
But (and you just knew there would be a big “but” coming along) are still situations when Facebook will throw the challenge flag against a user’s name. Early last year, the site was criticized by some indigenous people with their own unique traditional names; in other words, someone with a name like, say, John Dances With Wolves would still have to show Facebook verification that the name is preferred and legitimate.
Then there is the situation with Storm Paradise. She is 23 years old; she’s a male-to-female transgender person residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and she has gone by Storm since age 16. The problem is, however, that her identification still matches the male name on her birth certificate. That turned out to be a problem when Facebook asked Storm to provide documentation that proves her name is legitimate. Yes, this roadblock Facebook has erected before Storm has got her upset, and she feels that she shouldn’t have to provide identification (she feels it’s a discrimination against transgender people).
Obviously, I’m with Storm Paradise on this side of the issue; she wants to connect with like-minded people through one of the easiest ways possible, Facebook, but she shouldn’t get harassment from Facebook’s gatekeepers over her identity. Now, sure, some of you may say her Facebook account wouldn’t be in such jeopardy had she taken the time to get her name legally changed, but who knows what roadblocks she has encountered in resolving that situation? (The CBC News article about her plight does not make any indication about her legal name change progress.) The sad thing to me is this: Someone with a name as crazy (but legal) as Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop can probably get a Facebook account without any hassle… but someone who goes by a name as simple and not entirely unique (though not yet legally her own) as Storm Paradise, someone who’s likely more available than Mr. Bop-Bop to use Facebook at this moment, gets the runaround over her name, even though she’d readily check off “Member of the LGBTQ community” on Facebook’s special circumstance list.
Hopefully, Storm’s situation will be resolved before Facebook pulls the plug on her account, either through someone or something endorsing her identity or Facebook having a moment of empathy and understanding. Whatever the case, this is another one of those moments when I’m actually glad I do not have a Facebook account. I’m really skeptical that if I were to sign up for Facebook, the name I so easily and readily identify as a crossdresser — Allison M. — wouldn’t pass Facebook’s criteria. Oh well, that’s Facebook’s loss. At least I still have a WordPress blog, a Flickr portfolio, and a Twitter feed that will keep me content.