A June 1 protest at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters will be moving forward after the San Francisco Pride board decided Tuesday that the social media giant would not be banned from participating in next month’s Pride parade.
In a joint statement from the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee and Facebook, the social media company said it will participate in the June 28 parade.
At issue is the company’s policy of using legal names instead of stage names or other names on Facebook pages. Last fall, a group of drag and trans community members, along with gay San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, met with Facebook officials but a formal agreement was not reached. The social media company did restore some drag queens’ pages that it had removed.
But SF Pride and Facebook’s statement also said that the company has committed to meeting with activists and others to discuss ongoing issues with its name policy.
Facebook “has agreed to participate in a community forum on this issue and to be represented by leaders within their organization who are empowered to authorize and facilitate further changes to the enforcement and reporting options associated with the policy,” the May 21 statement read.
No meeting date was announced.
“It looks like the SF Pride board was split down the middle but the final vote result is Facebook not being banned from Pride,” wrote Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on her Facebook page Tuesday, May 19. “Good luck to the members who falsely believe they can negotiate around the fake name reporting issue when Facebook has clearly stated to you directly that they will not budge on this issue.”
SF Pride’s action is similar to one taken by Heritage of Pride, which oversees New York City’s Pride March. Organizers of Heritage of Pride told the Bay Area Reporter last week that Facebook would be allowed to participate in its event.
SF Pride and Facebook’s statement said that they take concerns raised by the drag and transgender communities “seriously.”
“We acted immediately to meet with both the community members and Facebook to understand the issues at stake,” the statement said.
But SF Pride’s overarching mission is “education and liberation,” the statement said, “which means helping to push the LGBTQI rights movement forward where we can.”
“Facebook access is now a critical lifeline for so many people, and we are particularly concerned about the situation facing transgender youth who still may not have adequate documentation of their authentic names. SF Pride believes more must be done to address the negative effects of the authentic names reporting policy in order to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are not targeted,” the statement said.
In the statement, Facebook said that it has been a “strong supporter” of the Pride parade for many years. It also said that changes have been made to its authentic name policy.
“We’ve made significant improvements over the last nine months in the way the policy is enforced,” it said in the statement. “We look forward to ongoing discussions to make the experience even better for people who use Facebook. Specifically, we welcome recommendations from many community organizations on how to work more closely with the local and national transgender community and its leadership to improve their experience with Facebook.”
Facebook spokesman Andrew Souvall last week outlined some of the changes in an email to the B.A.R.
“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 work to verify their name,” Souvall said. “We have more work to do, and our teams will continue to prioritize these improvements.”
He said that Facebook has added what it calls Option 3, which allows people to provide the company with a legal document that does not need to include their authentic name on it, as long as they can provide Facebook with verification like mail, a magazine subscription, or other documentation that includes their authentic name.
Drag community members remain upset with SF Pride’s decision.
“We’re incredibly disappointed by SF Pride’s decision to allow Facebook to be part of this year’s Pride parade and festivities,” drag artist Lil Miss Hot Mess, who created a Change.org petition on the issue, told the B.A.R. Lil Miss said that the policy was “dangerous and discriminatory,” and also noted that the Pride board vote was an even split.
“It’s especially disheartening that after the Chelsea Manning controversy, the organization’s leadership still seems intent on putting corporate interests above the needs of the community,” Lil Miss Hot Mess said, referring to a previous Pride board’s handling of the Manning controversy ahead of the 2013 parade.
Manning, who was convicted of leaking classified documents via WikiLeaks, was named a community grand marshal two years ago but had that honor rescinded by the SF Pride board. She was named an honorary grand marshal for the 2014 parade.
For information on the Facebook protest, visit http://www.mynameiscampaign.org
– reported by David-Elijah Nahmod