Tag Archives: drag queens

Drag queens dress down Facebook over names policy

San Francisco drag queens are sparring with Facebook over its policy requiring people to use their real names, rather than drag names such as Pollo Del Mar and Heklina. But the world’s biggest social network is not budging from its rules.

In recent weeks, Facebook has been deleting the profiles of self-described drag queens and other performers who use stage names because they did not comply with the social networking site’s requirement that users go by their “real names” on the site.

Earlier this week, Facebook declined to change its policy after meeting with drag queens and a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors. The company said is usually deletes accounts with fake names after investigating user complaints.

“This policy is wrong and misguided,” said Supervisor David Campos, who was flanked by seven drag queens during a press conference at San Francisco City Hall.

The drag queens and others in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community say many Facebook account holders fear using their real names for a variety of reasons, including threats to their safety and employment.

“I have crazy family members who I don’t want contacting me through Facebook,” said a self-described drag queen who calls herself Heklina.

Facebook said it temporarily restored hundreds of deleted accounts for two weeks. After that they’ll have to either change their name to their real name, or convert their profile to a fan page.

Campos and the drag queens, led by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – a San Francisco group of drag performers and activists that’s been around since 1979 – say they plan another meeting with Facebook and are hopeful that the company will ultimately alter its policy.

If Facebook doesn’t change its policy, the drag queens at San Francisco City Hall said they would organize protests and boycotts.

“Abused women, bullied teens, transgender people … (there are) a million different people with a million different reasons to use fake names,” said Sister Roma, a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Facebook says it policy “helps prevent bad behavior, while creating a safer and more accountable environment.”

The company says performers and others have other ways of keeping their stage identities on the site, including creating pages that are meant for businesses and public figures.

Many in the drag queen community are professional performers who rely on Facebook to publicize gigs. They said a fan page isn’t the same as a regular Facebook page.

“Your reach is limited, said Rosa Sifuentes, a San Francisco-based burlesque performer who goes by the name Bunny Pistol.

The company’s policy has been around just about as long as Facebook itself.

This isn’t the first time users have criticized Facebook’s policy.

Political activists have complained, especially those living in countries where they could face danger if their real identities are revealed. In 2011, Chinese blogger and activist Michael Anti, whose legal name is Zhao Jing, had his profile deleted because he was not using his given name – even though his professional identity has been established for more than a decade and is better known. Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, has “merged” her stage name with her birth name on Facebook in an apparent compromise.

It’s not always easy to determine which names are inauthentic. Some people whose real names sound fake have had their accounts deleted, too.

For Facebook, the real names policy is not just meant to keep people accountable. The company and other website operators argue that requiring people to use true identities can reduce online vitriol and bullying. Real names also help Facebook target advertisements to its 1.32 billion users.

Facebook estimates that 6 to 11 percent of its monthly user accounts were duplicate or fake in 2013.

“We believe the percentage of accounts that are duplicate or false is meaningfully lower in developed markets such as the United States or United Kingdom and higher in developing markets such as India and Turkey,” Facebook wrote in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “However, these estimates are based on an internal review of a limited sample of accounts and we apply significant judgment in making this determination, such as identifying names that appear to be fake or other behavior that appears inauthentic to the reviewers.”

Sisters minister to the LGBT community

Some queens take drag beyond the bouffant and the bustier to play a critical role in their communities. Just ask Chad Morrell, who has reached beyond the salon and into the sacristy (well, sort of).

Under the name Chad Fabulous, Morrell owns and operates Grand Finale Salon in Gurnee, Ill., and Black Butterfly Salon, its sister facility in Sacramento, Calif. But the cosmetologist’s true calling comes through in his role as Sister Truly Fierce, abbess and co-founder of the Abbey of the Brew City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in Milwaukee.

Call it a gay nun order – not affiliated with the Catholic Church, of course – whose members devote their lives to serving the LGBT community. They arrive at events dressed in habits, wimples and, in the case of the Brew City Sisters, the ubiquitous Wisconsin cheeseheads. Their faces are painted white, but with highly decorative touches applied to their makeup and wardrobe.

“We’re more than drag queens in white face paint,” Morrell says. “Our global mission is to expiate stigmatic guilt, and promulgate omni-versal joy. We are nuns of the 21st century who just happen to love glitter and all that sparkles, especially the sparkle of the soul of all whom we meet, bless and touch.”

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence traces its roots back to San Francisco in 1979 as a street performance group that used Catholic imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance and social conflicts. The mission has remained the same over the past 32 years. Most chapters work to raise attention about safe-sex practices and support social causes in their communities.

Morrell’s “nun-ification” came on the heels of his experience as a drag performer in Kansas City, Mo., where he had studied at the Paris II Academy of Cosmetology. Performing as Chantal “The One-Name Sensation,” Morrell found himself increasingly appearing at local HIV/AIDS fundraisers and he started gaining an increased awareness of related issues.

“I realized that it is up to our community to support and strengthen all of us,” Morrell says. “Through social action we can make changes for positive results. My calling to the sisterhood had begun, and I knew there was no sign of stopping.”

In 2000, Morell moved to southeastern Wisconsin/northeastern Illinois and opened his first salon in Gurnee. In 2002, living in Kenosha, he met Carlos Peneranda, aka Sister Rhoda Kill of the Los Angeles abbey, and got his first introduction to the order. In 2007, he became Sister Truly Fierce, the first drag nun in Wisconsin. In 2009, Morrell and several other co-founders began the Brew City Sisters.

The Milwaukee abbey, like the other 35 around the world, operates with a quasi-Catholic doctrine and lifetime commitment, but acts with more decorative flair. Applicants first become Aspirants, an expression of interest in the order, then move on to become Postulants, a category that allows them to wear gray robes and white scapulars. Postulants also may start wearing white makeup on the eyes and cheeks, but not the mouth, because they’re not allowed to speak for the order, Morrell says.

The next step is that of Novice members, who are assigned big sisters, a guard (we’ll get to that in a minute). They’re allowed to choose their nun names. Once the order has been impressed with the Novice’s commitment and character, he is elevated to the status of Fully Professed Member, a process that takes at least a year.

The various orders also have guards, male personas who maintain order, protect the sisters and tend to the logistics of visits and activities. “It’s a combination of holding purses and herding cats,” Morrell explains. “They are our personal superheroes.”

In addition to Morrell, the Brew City Abbey includes cofounder Charles Pratt (Sister Anita-Nuther Cocktail), cofounder Sue Westover (Sister Gimm E Summ), Ron Nelson (Sister Bea Fore-Warned), Julio Villareal (Sister Sexy Angel) and honorary member Jeff Kingsley (Sister Dali Domystique) of the Los Angeles chapter. The roster of guards includes Dave Westover (Guard Faux-Mo), Paul Carbonneau (Guard War Games) and Ursus Torrente (Guard Rex Uranus). The postulants are Brad Reisterer and Steven Turchin and the aspirants are Josh Schumaker and Joel Kretschmer.

Morell says participant ages range from the early 20s to the mid-40s, and there is no gender or race requirement for participation.

The Abbey of the Brew City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which became a fully professed order this past May, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing information to at-risk individuals and youth regarding critical health and community issues, according to its founder.

“Through outreach, education, community fund-raising and entertainment, we provide funding and assistance to organizations in need of financial elevation and public acknowledgement throughout the state of Wisconsin,” Morrell says. “We strive to make our state a better, safer and more equal place to live.”

And they also dress like nuns in white face.