Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How Facebook Versus Drag Queens Will Affect Opera Singers

UPDATE (10/02/14): Chris Cox of Facebook has responded to the controversy and says that drag queens will be allowed to use their stage names on their accounts. No word on sopranos. Read more about it here.
If this Facebook debate were happening 40 years ago, this
 opera singer wouldn't even be able to go by Bubbles on
 her personal page, but rather Belle Silverman.
"Years ago, Lil Miss Hot Mess created a Facebook profile. 'The way that I move through the world as a drag queen is different than how I move through the world every day,' she says. With her stage name, she has a different social circle, a different way of being online. Her page was shut down early last week, and she wasn't the only one whose account was deactivated. Facebook also closed the pages of other queens after they were reported for not using their 'real' names on Facebook. Now, drag queens around the U.S. are gaining allies in a fight against Facebook's real name policy. Activists argue that 'real' is a complicated term, and that for some, using birth names on profiles can actually put them at risk instead of keep them safe. But Facebook contends this protocol prevents anonymous bullying. In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: 'Having people use their real names on Facebook makes them more accountable, and also helps us root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech. While real names help keep Facebook safe, we also recognize that a person's real identity is not necessarily the
Bianca Del Rio is one of the drag queens in danger of
 having to change her profile name to Roy Haylock.
(Photo: Santiago Felipe)
name that appears on their legal documentation, and that is why we accept other forms of identification that verifies the name a person uses in everyday life.' The policy isn't new, so why is it getting attention now? Within the last couple weeks, dozens of drag queens' Facebook profiles were reported as not having 'real' names (Facebook says it does not seek out fake profiles). Those flagged accounts were deactivated. Drag queens started organizing and, along with San Francisco City Supervisor David Campos, met with Facebook on Sept. 17. Facebook said it would reactivate approximately 200 accounts and that at the end of two weeks, queens would have to either change their names or lose their profiles. Next week, there's another meeting scheduled at Facebook — and a protest planned in San Francisco. In the midst of the back-and-forth, a number of questions about identity and safety online have come up. Here are a few of them. Facebook has said that drag queens can use their stage names if they switch over to pages in place of profiles. The way people engage is similar — except we're talking about 'fans' rather than 'friends.' Facebook also says it offered to help anyone who was interested in turning a friend list into fans. Here comes the issue: Pages are intended for 'businesses, brands and organizations.' As Lil Miss Hot Mess puts it, 'We're not Lady Gaga; we're not Coca-Cola.' For her, inviting people to a show is 'much closer to inviting people to a dinner party.' She adds, 'These names are not just marketing tools.' She says her name is another part of her identity — not a separate persona." [Source] What does this mean in terms of the opera world? If you log onto Facebook and try searching for one of your favorite singers, chances are you will get a fan page or Wikipedia produced page. Many opera singers don't want to deal with people they are not truly connected with in the offstage world sending friend requests to their private accounts. The solution? Make a variation on your name or truncate it so that no one searching actually could find it. But once they become friends with another singer,
Citizen Leah Joanne may have to become
 public figure Leah Crocetto if Facebook
 has their way. (Photo: Facebook)
for example, their identity becomes pretty obvious. For example, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton goes by the moniker Jam Barto; soprano Sondra Radvanovsky goes by her married name Sondra Lear; soprano Alyson Cambridge goes by Aly Cam (which might soon change, since she is recently engaged); soprano Leah Crocetto has taken the name Leah Joanne for her personal page (possibly her middle name as the surname?); and Deborah Voigt created two pages using her casual nickname Debbie Voigt. Will Facebook take these singers to task, along with the drag queens, and force them to either change their personal pages to the names reported on government issued IDs? Luckily Facebook wasn't around for the entire last century or we would have to search Facebook for the real names of famous singers like Alice Pons, Roberta Peterman, Mary Price, Belle Silverman, Helen Porter Mitchell, and Sophia Kalos.

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