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Dear Facebook, #MyNameIs Sunny Megatron

Facebook real name policy

Despite Chris Cox, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, stating yesterday that everyone has the right to use their “authentic identity” rather than their legal name on Facebook, I woke up this morning locked out of my account. A message popped up stating I had to provide a “government issued ID” to change my name back to the only name I’ve used for many years.

Sister Roma has done so much for folks on this issue. Having met with Facebook twice this month, she was able to persuade them to apologize to those that have been outed as a result of the real name policy. Facebook also vowed to change their name policy allowing people to use names they are commonly known as. To my understanding, a number of drag queens in Sister Roma’s circle have had their accounts reinstated and names changed back on the social networking site today. That certainly is a victory for those in the drag queen community but many others are still in the dark wondering how Facebook’s policy change will affect them.

Facebook real name policyPerformers, trans people, those that are hiding from abusers, mental health workers who need to remain anonymous from patients, sex workers, people from small communities with differing views or lifestyles, those who need privacy from employers/risk termination due to their lifestyle, and a whole host of other folks may need to use a name other than their legal name on Facebook. Will everyone who wishes to use a pseudonym on Facebook be able to do so?

According to yesterday’s statement by Chris Cox, “Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that’s Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what’s been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.”

That works for me because I do use Sunny Megatron as my authentic, all the time name. Friends know me as this name (most have no clue what my legal name is), professionally I am this name, I have a website, e-mail address, web history, and even a TV show with this name attached to it. I can clearly prove Sunny Megatron is my recognized pseudonym both personally and professionally. As of now, however, there isn’t any new system on Facebook to correct that. I have been e-mailing various Facebook e-mail addresses all day trying to get this fixed. This is one of my many messages I sent directly to Facebook:

“Hi,  

According to Facebook’s chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, yesterday the name policy has changed to include common use/non-legal names. I am a sexuality educator, LGBT advocate and member of the LGBT community. I am also in the public eye and host a TV show about these topics on Showtime. Sunny Megatron has been my personal and professional name for years and I am not known by any other name in my personal or professional life. In the attached proof of ID file I have included the below letter plus screen grabs from my Showtime Networks TV show page, my website, IMDB, etc. Thanks.  

Text from the attached proof of ID file: 

“Sunny Megatron is my professional, entertainment and common personally used name and it has been for years. According to Facebook’s apology/policy change yesterday we are allowed to use the name we go by on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t just an entertainment name for me, it is the ONLY name I am known as both professionally and personally. Below I have copied screen grabs from my TV show on Showtime (with my name, Sunny Megatron, in the title), Website, IMDB, etc. My e-mail is also sunny@sunnymegatron.com. I also have long-time established social media accounts under that name. You can google image search my name and countless images of my face pop up. I cannot have my legal (publicly and personally unused) name known. Because I am in the public eye/TV I have received numerous death threats. I have a family to protect and people can find out where I live if they connected my legal name to my professional/public name (public search, property records, etc). This isn’t just a business/entertainment name, this is the ONLY name I am known as both publicly and privately. I even have a PO box so my mail carrier and passers by cannot connect my legal name with my place of residence. I was quoted in CNN a week ago talking about this: http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/16/living/Facebook-name-policy/ Please let me know what I can do to change my name back to my common/public/personal name, Sunny Megatron. Thanks.

Websites: 

http://www.sunnymegatron4.com.php56-15.dfw3-2.websitetestlink.com/

http://www.sho.com/sho/sex-with-sunny-megatron/home

https://twitter.com/SunnyMegatron (since 2009)

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5751974/

After posting about this on Facebook, a friend commented along the lines of, “thank goodness you have your TV show to reference to prove what your authentic name is.” That depressed me even more. I have that but so many others don’t. How would this affect me if this were 5 years ago? Before I was publicly known to use this name? Before the TV show and internet articles to back me up? When I was hiding from an abusive partner who was threatening to kill me and harm my children? Vowing to “ruin my life” and do everything they could to cause me mental and physical distress?

For me, keeping my legal name off the internet has always been a safety issue. It’s the same reason that back in the day I paid extra for an unlisted phone number; only used a last name on my mailbox so people couldn’t identify who I was, my gender, or if I lived alone; or why I always said on my answering machine that “we” aren’t home instead of identifying myself as a woman living by herself.

I have always strayed from using my legal name on social media for these very reasons— because I never knew who I would meet or how they may one day harm me. It sounds so cloak and dagger now, but honestly, to me it’s just part of being a woman living in a fucked up society. Never leave yourself vulnerable because you never know, right?

If my name were something like “Mary Jones,” I don’t think I would be quite as conscious of being exposed. My legal name, however, is very unusual and when googled I’m the first listing (and only one of two) that pops up and that leads to my address, phone number, property records, etc. No matter how hard I try to remove my name from those people finder type sites, another one always seems to pop up again.

My “paranoia” paid off a few years back when I finally mustered up the courage and resources to leave an abusive long term partner. He made numerous threats which prompted me to obtain an order of protection and pursue felony criminal charges. Every social media page I had he monitored so I took solace in the fact that I could hide behind an anonymous name online. For so many people in abusive situations online connections can be a lifeline, I’m not sure how I would have coped if those channels were cut off.

Now I’m in a completely different position. In addition to always wondering if abusive ex will come back to haunt me, I am in the public eye and have my regular rotation of stalkers. They threaten me and my family. Sometimes they are obsessed with me and want to find me. Often they tell me they will find out where I live. That’s pretty scary. Reaching celebrity status has its downside– but it’s that same celebrity status that will likely get my account switched back to my “authentic name.”

What about those that don’t have that level of fame or proof? Not everyone who uses a pseudonym online has a website or email address to back it up. Google+ recently reversed their real name policy after realizing that requiring legal names puts people in harms way. They even went as far as to recognize that allowing people to use alternate names only if those names are established/provable isn’t good enough.

I hope Facebook gets it. Changing their policy to allow people to use only “established pseudonyms” doesn’t cut it. There are many folks that legitimately need to use alternate names for their safety.

Please keep talking about this. Whether it’s tweeting about the issue to Facebook using the #MyNameIs hashtag, writing a blog post, informing others, etc, each little bit helps. Facebook said they’d change their policy but today, the day after they made that promise, countless sexuality educators and friends from Chicago who live alternate lifestyles were locked out of their accounts. These people are not the “bad actors” or spam accounts Chris Cox spoke of. They are simply people trying to interact online as their authentic selves.

 

UPDATE 10/3/2014:  Received this reply back from facebook: “Hello Sunny, I have forwarded the information to the appropriate teams for processing. I am so sorry you’re going through this. Hopefully we can get it squared away soon.” That’s hopeful (for me) but I’m not holding my breath. I’m still left wondering if I had to go through such lengths and show so much proof (and no guarantee that will even work– I’m not reinstated yet), what about people in situations that I listed above whose pseudonym isn’t established enough? I’ll keep you all posted . . .

 

UPDATE 11/12/2014: after e-mailing everyone under the sun and having Sister Roma do the same on my behalf, a few friends volunteered to contact Facebook via their “help” screen about my issue. The next day I was changed back.  Not sure which form of contact did it, or if the timing was purely coincidence, but I’m back listed as my authentic name.  It took 5 weeks of waiting but I’m glad it’s been resolved.  Thanks to all who helped out!

11 replies
  1. Girl on the Net
    Girl on the Net says:

    Too right – and well said. There are so so many different reasons why people don’t go by their ‘real’ names, and they absolutely shouldn’t have to. I think it’s incredibly short sighted of Facebook not to realise this, and I find it totally ridiculous that sites like FB so often cite ‘anonymous trolling/harassment’ as a reason for having a ‘real names’ policy. Umm… what about the harassment that is actively made easier by having a real names policy?!

    I’ve been quite surprised, since I started anonymous blogging, just how many people give a massive shit about what my ‘real’ name is – I introduce myself by a fake, yet normal-sounding name, and get people ask me ‘is that your *real* name though?’ To which my response is: why does it actually matter to you that you know the actual detail? If you call that name out, I’ll turn around. if you message it, I’ll respond. That’s as real as it needs to get for me.

    Reply
  2. Magick Temple
    Magick Temple says:

    Surprised you’ve had so much trouble with it TBH. I had the same issue when opening my facbook page, but it was sorted with one email demonstrating a history of being known as ‘Magick’ on various websites and other social media.

    That was several years ago, so if anything it sounds like they’ve got stricter about it.

    Reply
  3. Sunny Megatron
    Sunny Megatron says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this– specifically the people who can prove an established name vs. not. Why should anyone have to do this? When you establish a boundary, that’s your boundary plain and simple. Yes, you have your reasons why that boundary is important but you shouldn’t have to justify those reasons to anyone. It’s like saying to someone, “I don’t want you to touch me” and instead of respecting that boundary they keep touching you while asking why they aren’t supposed to touch you, saying they will only stop if your reason is good enough in their eyes. Ridiculous.

    I have lots of good, valid reasons for not putting my legal name on the net. But I really shouldn’t have to justify them to anyone. Why do some people get to keep their pseudonyms only if FB deems those reasons valid enough? I can’t believe there isn’t another way to ferret out fake accounts and “bad actors.”

    Reply
    • Magick Temple
      Magick Temple says:

      Not particularly defending FB (there’s many things i don’t like about their policies, and I don’t use it much), but I think their reasoning is that it’s intended to be social networking for people who know you in real life. So if the people who know you want to find you you have to give a name they’ll be looking for.

      Plus obviously it makes it harder for trolls, spammers and predators to operate anonymously.

      If they are now making it hard for people to use pseudonyms they commonly use I take your point, but if they are simply trying to stop people opening accounts where nobody will know who they really are, I’d suggest that’s just because they prefer not to have their service used for those purposes.

      Remember, they’re not insisting you identify yourself. Only saying that’s what you need to do in order to use their website.

      Reply
      • Irina Rempt
        Irina Rempt says:

        Pff, if I used my legal name to sign up for Facebook my RL friends wouldn’t be able to find me, because hardly any of them know it. I’ve been using this first name for over 30 years and this last name (my married name) for over 20. Not because of threats or harassment or to keep my identity secret, but for various other reasons — my maiden last name, for instance, is much harder for most of my friends from all over the world to spell, pronounce, and remember.

        As it is I don’t have a Facebook account, partly because of the legal-name policy, partly because I don’t want everybody and their dog from high school to catch up with me, partly because it’s my daughters’ territory and I’m not the kind of parent who “monitors” (read: stalks and spies on) their offspring on social media.

        Reply
      • Crystalwolflady
        Crystalwolflady says:

        They are demanding a gov ID with a picture and Birthday! I’ve been locked out of my acct since dec 28 2014! A lawyer needs to take this case.
        I am a citizen blogger and activist and single woman. Home Depot is being sued for asking people at check out Their ZIPCODE!!! Here is facebook, no phone number email or anything and they are being sued for snooping through peoples pm’s and they want to know EVERYTHING? Sue THEM!!!
        This is a invasion of privacy and my rights. I’ve been on facebook since 2011.

        Reply
  4. Hillary "Maliceon" Marek
    Hillary "Maliceon" Marek says:

    I think facebook is probably the only site other then google plus (where I have an account for each) where I use my real name instead of my DJ name “Maliceon” For much the same reasons as listed above, but ultimately it is because at the end of the day even though the character “Maliceon” is wild and loud and energetic, Hillary is a 36 yr old wife and mother who is straight edge,very quiet, agoriphobic and non social. EDM DJ usually equates drug abuse and non stop party girl. The total opposite of who i really am, heck not only do I not put any addictive substances including caffeine in my body, the only “parting” I do is chuck e cheese birthday parties and the like. People who see me spin get this crazy idea about getting drunk and high in vip rooms with beautiful people and somehow I am the key to their membership at fictional cool kid table. I have been in some terrifying situations where a club kid has shown up at my home high as a kite insisting we MUST hangout or followed my car leaving a show.or random digging in your private life to uncover secrets that could make them seem more connected if they exposed. (I could care less about rumors directed at me but I have kids who don’t want the stigma and should not have to deal with it.) It is enough to make anyone want to hide their true identity. DJ Maliceon is who I show the world, Hillary Marek is who I am, I should not have to sacrifice one for the other. Quitting my profession to ward off the few extremists is insane when the problem can be resolved by just using a public alias when engaging with strangers. I think in circumstances where the person has a no friends, no photos other that 1 profile pic or has just joined facebook recently and is claiming to be “princess jasmine” or “nunya buisness” then yea fb mall cop flag that shit ask them for proof. But when someone has built a community on your site and is not harassing other members or posting rude, pornagraphic or hate speach, then SFW. The point is to connect with friends am I wrong? So if you are doing this and not bugging anyone whilst crouching behind your icon photo in nothing but a trench coat and swimmers flippers, then why does it matter if you are “eurika fish” or “john smith”? When your life is kept in photo albums, posts, contacts hell even log in info to other sites and held hostage by a malevolent gate keeper who is ultimately unreachable there has to be some kind of backup system in place. Until fb has the manpower to orchestrate a service department for the sort of resolution and dispute requests that are rampant with these types of changes, they need to spend more time on bigger issues that plague the network, Sorry for all that, I usually do not feel passionate enough about something to leave such a long comment but this topic got me fired up. Thanks for letting me vent Sunny.
    PS I did an IDMB search on the name sunny megatron just out of curiosity (I had no idea you had done so much more then I had seen on this site. When you cited the shows listed above I wanted to check them out) and I took the sunny megatron quiz check it, BOOM according to IDMB I am a SM genius thank you very much (ok ok so it was only one question but I typed it realy fast so that counts for something right lol) I just scored 100 playing Sunny Megatron Quiz on IMDb – http://imdb.com/games/guess/nm5751974 #imdb #quiz
    smile cupcake we love ya no matter what your name is or isn’t according to the book of faces.

    Reply
  5. syntheah
    syntheah says:

    Facebook can go fuck themselves. As a transgender person I recently went through this same shit, and just because I haven’t gotten a full sex change yet they keep blocking my accounts. It’s disrespect and flat out rude to cross dressers and trans people.

    Reply
  6. Framwinkle
    Framwinkle says:

    I’ve been locked out of Facebook for my name, but I can’t get anywhere with them. I’ve given them long-winded letters, explaining in detail, why I don’t use my real name online, and how the name “Framwinkle” was established 16 years ago, but they don’t care. I can’t even get a real person to speak with me. All I get in response is a copy/pasted reply saying they need my ID. They have not changed.

    I’m not a performer, or part of the LBGT community, but I shouldn’t have to be part of a large group that makes FB fear for their public relations in order to have my privacy and right to self expression respected. Being human ought to be enough, yet I can’t even get an actual response from them.

    Reply
  7. Annie
    Annie says:

    Sonny I applaud you for not giving up. And you’re right, Facebook has no right to make you put a name you don’t want out there on a social media site. I mean it really is ridiculous!

    And Really Facebook? Five weeks to get something like this fixed. It never should have happened in the first place. Facebook is so behind the times.

    Have you all seen what Google+ can do?

    What Facebook doesn’t get is that some people need anonymity. You mentioned reasons for this. And you’re right.Because if you weren’t famous and didn’t have the credentials to back it up then you wouldn’t ever get a response from FB.

    Most Movie stars don’t use their birth name. So how on earth do they get away with having a page?

    I have two FB pages. One for my personal stuff and the other for my Author page. I use my maiden name on my author page. But Facebook screws this up all the time.

    I have fans on my personal page now. If I say no to their friendship I lose a fan. So Facebook I too would like to say Fuck you!!

    Facebook is not the IRS, Last I looked they weren’t doing taxes. So why do they need a name that’s on a birth certificate?

    And getting them to answer any question is hard enough.

    I don’t know how on earth you actually got them to change your name back. Has anyone ever looked at all the questions people ask FaceBook? The answer’s you usually get are from other FB users, and Not from someone sitting in an office at FB head quarters itself.

    I guess we all just need to keep making noise so that when Fuck-Face-book does do something so wrong to people who are so right it gets out there and makes them look Stupid.

    Maybe then I will get my fans on my author page and my personal page can be used for my personal friends and family. Thanks for making some noise Sonny!!!

    Reply
    • Crystalwolflady
      Crystalwolflady says:

      Annie I turned them into IC3 as hackers! I thought it was a hack! No social media does this! We need a GOOD #CivilRightsLawyer! I contacted the ACLU no help! Wait until they ask me for money!!! Sorry!!!
      Everyone says why not just get your name? Seriously? People are actually showing them their DL’s!?

      Reply

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