Individual vs. Commodity

Both of these characters are created by, performed by, conceived of, and are parts of me... Identity is voice and voice is what we profoundly have in life.

Both of these characters are created by, performed by, conceived of, and are parts of me… Identity is voice and voice is what we profoundly have in life.

To limit ourselves via artificially prescribed means is not only a travesty to human potential, but soilage and stagnation of possibility.  Before one trades their worth, understand this limitation of the self is funneled into dollar amounts placed on conformity in the form of consumerism.  This will always be an exchange far lower than one’s natural resource, the self, is worth.

I wanted to write some of my thoughts about Facebook and identity these days.  I am beside myself with anger and grief for the amount of unchecked privilege showing in the execution of this (what I can only characterize as) modern-day witch hunt.  Deletion of individual identity, expression, and art is a very dangerous path to wander down, and it is not only one “type” who is being targeted and erased in this endeavor, but many.  The current policy effects performers, artists, queers, cultural outliers of all types, transpeople, those who are protecting themselves from a violent past, teachers, and many other individuals who are not privileged to have the lifestyle or resources to be “out” about the various parts of the lives they lead yet have the basic human need to express all parts of themselves where safe and appropriate.  It is not individuals but an imbalanced society that divides its population into haves and have-nots.  I am lucky to have carved out a life I can choose to be out about in almost all ways, and I look to that privilege as my responsibility to fulfill especially for those who cannot.  I am rare in both my social and professional circles to be able to do this.

I have not yet left the social media site in question, I am not one of the people who will be asked to defend my account’s name, and I am still working on contributing to an alternative social media community.  You can find me and many of my interesting, artistic, intelligent, and adventurous friends at Ello.co these days, a social network created by artists, posting no ads, which is currently in beta mode.  Say hello and follow me at either ello.co/karinwebb or ello.co/abcsofkink.  While there is nothing new under the sun, sometimes it is time for an empire to fall for forsaking the health and freedoms of its constituency.

Below I’ve shared an article by my friend Jade Sylvan which was published in The Washington Post recently, and I think it is very worth the read.  What are your thoughts on this situation?  How are you or people you love and respect effected by this?  Please share.

To Breath and Being,
~ Karin

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Dear Facebook: This is why your new ‘real name’ policy hurts queers like me

Jade Sylvan, called a “risqué queer icon” by the Boston Globe, is the author of Kissing Oscar Wilde and some other things.
Published by the Washington Post on September 22

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

Hi. I’m Jade Sylvan. That’s not the name I was born with. I chose my name because I wanted to be a writer and a performing artist, and “Jennifer Schaibley” sucked for those things. I wrote and performed under Jade Sylvan for years while still going by my birth name at work and school. The separation was helpful to me at the time. I grew up in a very conservative, very Catholic part of the Midwest, and I’ve always written and performed about queer sexuality and controversial gender issues.

In Indiana in 2005, Jenny was a, smart, funny girl who wore sneakers and worked as an English tutor for low-income high school kids. Jade was an outspoken gender queer publicly mouthing off about LGBTQ issues, pansexual attraction and gender fluidity.

There were several years during which half of the people I interacted with knew me as Jenny, and half as Jade. I had two social media accounts and two e-mail addresses. I was not more myself one place versus the other. Quite simply, it was safe to be Jade in some rooms, and safe to be Jenny in others. Aside from the overarching fear of bullying that most queer people dealt with in my community, if I had been open about my artistic life at my job at the time, I would have risked losing it. I did not want to stop making my art. I loved it and thought it was important, and it was ultimately what I wanted to do with my life. I also did not want to lose my job. I loved it and thought it was important, and it was paying my rent.

I’m telling you all this because recently, Facebook has started blocking drag queens from their accounts until they use their “real names.” (The reasons behind this decision are dubious, and statements from the company are vague, and quite frankly, clueless.)

You said a while back that “the days of having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end very quickly…. Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” The thing is, young Jenny/Jade agreed with you – at least with that first part. I dreamed of a day when I could work with teenagers in the afternoon and stand naked on stage in the evening and only use one name. I did not want to live two separate lives, I wanted to become Jade, and eventually, when my artistic career picked up and I moved to liberal Cambridge, Mass., I did. I even went down to the courthouse and changed my name legally. (If your Internet gnomes ever send me a message asking to see my ID, it will be promptly provided.)

It’s that second part that I have trouble with. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” This, to me, sounds like the words of someone who has absolutely no concept of what it’s like to exist outside of mainstream culture. I’m not saying you’re a bad person – most of what I know about you is from a biopic I watched half-drunk a few years ago mostly because Trent Reznor did the soundtrack for it. I’m saying you and your personal social network view having more than one named identity as sketchy because you generally have not experienced discrimination and/or violence because of one or more of your identities.

I know, we queers talk about identity all the time. The thing is, identity is at the forefront of our lives because for most of us, there has always been someone in power trying to punish us for ours, invalidate ours, or take ours away. Not everyone who exists with separate identities wants, as I did, to become their AKA. I know people whose gender identity, name and pronoun preferences change based on their situation, or simply based on what they feel like that day. These people deserve the right to interact with their community as the person they truly are from moment to moment. That is honesty. That is integrity.

I love Facebook because it allows me to create an intentional image of myself that I present to the world. Identity is not invalid if it is not legal. Forcing people to use their legal names against their will is not only dangerous, it’s disrespectful. By doing this, you are denying them the right to be themselves, and, ultimately, destroying the safe and open online community your company says it wants to create.

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~Thank you.

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