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    The Ability to Self-Identify Is a Matter of Safety as Well as Self-Expression

    davecamposFor many members of the LGBT community, the ability to self-identify is as much a matter of health and safety as it is an important outlet for self-expression. The outrage expressed by members of San Francisco’s drag community over a recent crackdown on Facebook’s profile name policy has demonstrated exactly why this is the case.

    Many of my good friends, including Sister Roma, Heklina, BeBe Sweetbriar and Lil Miss Hot Mess, have been locked out of their Facebook profiles in recent weeks due to a policy requiring users to publicly list their legal names. Many people’s identities, particularly in the LGBT community, are not reflected on their driver’s license or ID cards. I have known these wonderful drag performers for years and have never called them by any name other than the ones they use on stage.

    Facebook may not be aware that, for some members of the LGBT community, the ability to self-identify is a matter of safety. Not allowing drag performers, transgender people and other members of our community to go by their chosen names can result in violence, stalking, violations of privacy and repercussions at work.

    Sister Roma addressed the breadth of the community affected by the policy best when she said, “This issue is way bigger than a bunch of drag queens complaining because we can’t use our stage names. This policy is discriminatory and potentially dangerous to a variety of Facebook users including abused and battered women, bullied teens, political activists, sex workers, and especially members of the transgender community; all examples of people who use pseudonyms to ensure their safety and privacy.”

    Last week, I extended an invitation to Facebook to meet with members of the community. I am glad that they have accepted our invitation to engage in a meaningful public dialogue with the drag queens and members of the transgender community who have been affected by the profile name policy. I look forward to participating in this very important conversation and reaching a solution that allows all Facebook members to feel empowered and safe when using the website.

    We know that many Facebook employees live in San Francisco and enjoy the contributions to nightlife that Heklina, Sister Roma and others have made. This will be a great opportunity for Facebook to engage constructively with its neighbors and create a community that is safer for everyone regardless of what name is listed on their driver’s license.

    David Campos is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 9. This column for the “SF Bay Times” was inspired by Harvey Milk’s efforts to build a coalition of what Milk termed “us’es,” meaning communities that value diversity and attempt to leave no one behind. For more information about Supervisor Campos and his work, please visit http://www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=2117