Right now, my friend Andrew has a lot of photos of a tall, bitchy-looking woman tagged as him on Facebook. Next to his christian name appears, in parenthesis, his stage name--Edie Cheezburger. Now everybody who knows Andrew's boy name will know he is a drag queen, and all of Edie's fans now know her boy name. Andrew/Edie is stuck in a place with absolutely no privacy; she spent years cultivating fans and photographs on her Facebook page, and to keep them she has to show the world the person behind the makeup.
Although I know both Edie and Andrew, I will go for long periods of time when I only see Edie. Even outside of her popular Atlanta drag show, I bump into Edie at bars and other events around town. Along with a legion of other fans, I've contributed hundreds of photos to Edie's Facebook page; this has helped build her brand. The voice and style of this Facebook profile has always been Edie; she speaks to fans who want to be her friend. Even when I'm referring to doing something with Andrew, such as having dinner or going tubing, I'll usually call him "Edie." I even tell Siri to dial "Edie Cheezburger." What Facebook doesn't get is that, even though I know him in and out of drag, I primarily know Edie. The people on Facebook primarily knew Edie. When we posted on her wall we were talking to Edie and not Andrew.
Now, I'm not sure who I'm talking to on that Facebook profile. Over at the Edie Cheezburger entertainer page, she's hustled to get more than 400 followers in a week. Just two images are under her photo section. Her Facebook friends are back at Andrew's profile page bitching about all the drag queens dissaperaing to this new rule. Colleague Jaye Lish went offline instead of reverting back to boy name. Some queens (whose names I will refrain from listing so they don't become targets) have yet to receive the Facebook axe -- possibly due to having normal-sounding female names.
The functionality of Facebook allows drag performers to market their personas better than any other tool. Everyone, queen and non-queen, is on Facebook; the site provides more connections than MySpace, Instagram, Tumblr, or any other social media provide. Facebook allows direct communication with fans, and performers can easily announce their shows with links to Facebook event pages. Possibly the most important aspect of Facebook for drag performers is photo tagging. Fans post photos of their favorite queens, scroll through images of shows they missed, and ogle over the sickening beauty Edie serves in every image.
Facebook claims they are a community centered on connections with people who project their true selves. Sure, Edie Cheezburger is not the name on Andrew's driver's license, but she is a real person to me and a large community of fans. Edie, like many other drag queens, is a distinct personality separate from Andrew. She has her own voice, style, and character. We all knew that when we friended her on Facebook.
If Facebook is going to force queens to use entertainer pages to connect with fans, then these pages need to have the functionality of their original Facebook profiles. The direct connections between queens and fans needs to be maintained on these entertainer pages, but without queens having to pay exorbitant fees to promote posts about their shows and career. Queens should also have the option of migrating photos from their old profile page to their entertainer pages; otherwise, years of building a fan base through tagged photos will go to waste.
Drag queens maintain a delicate balance between their boy and performer lives, and many would prefer employers not know they are a drag queen or for fans to know their given name. Facebook needs to recognize that queens nurture distinct personalities, and fans want to be able to connect with them. Any solution for allowing performers to maintain separate pages should be as close to possible as a regular Facebook persona. Queens are everyday people trying to make a living doing what they love; their privacy and professional needs should be respected by Facebook.