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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Facebook Real Names Policy Divides SF Pride Board, Money Wins

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2015 at 3:13 PM

click to enlarge Mark Zuckerberg rode a cable car in the 2013 SF Pride Parade - KOBBY DAGAN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Kobby Dagan /
  • Mark Zuckerberg rode a cable car in the 2013 SF Pride Parade

Facebook will be allowed to sponsor and march in the San Francisco Pride Parade this year, despite its refusal to change the "real name" policy that drag queens and trans people say discriminates against them. The reason Pride is turning its back on the portion of its community affected by Facebook's policy? According to the San Francisco Examiner, all it took was a phone call from Mark Zuckerberg himself and the promise of sponsorship dollars. 

San Francisco drag queens have led a campaign against Facebook's name policy since last year, when Facebook began a mass deletion of profiles of people who use aliases—many of them drag performers, trans people, domestic violence survivors, and others who don't want to use their legal name for a variety of reasons. 

A meeting between Facebook and drag queens last fall did not resolve the issue, and the activists launched a petition this spring calling for Facebook to be barred from the New York and San Francisco Pride parades. The petition has garnered over 2000 signatures, and nearly 1000 people have signed up (on Facebook of course) to protest at the company's Menlo Park campus next Monday. 

But according to the Examiner, a personal call from Mark Zuckerberg to the Pride board's executive director president Gary Virginia helped push him to vote to allow Facebook into the parade. The vote was 5-4. 

The Examiner obtained draft minutes from the board meeting, which took place on May 17. Those minutes are provided in full below, but here are some highlights (all quotes are from the draft minutes, not a direct transcription of what was said):

  • Gary Virginia's comment suggests he was worried that other sponsors could come under scrutiny: "This is highly equivalent to many other examples that could be requested by any advocacy group harmed by a sponsor. What would we do if an anti-sex group came and complained about a leather contingent?"

  • A non-board member who attended the meeting also raised concerns about sponsorships, saying: "This could put up a large red flag for future sponsors, or damage our relationship with Facebook as a sponsor. Flip-flopping is a major concern.... Concerned that if we ban Facebook what do other sponsors think of our parade."

  • On the other side of the issue, Jesse Oliver Sanford asked: "Since Gary [Virginia] mentioned it at the Tuesday meeting, advocates know that Mark Zuckerberg has been on the phone with us even though he apparently has not directly communicated with either City Hall or any of the other advocates, social actors, or stakeholders, pushing for changes in this policy. What does it say if all it takes is a 15-minute phone call from Zuckerberg for Pride to sell out our own community?"

  • Justin Taylor raised concerns about the policy: "What about a 15 year old LGBT kid developing their new sense of identity whether trans, not out or a budding drag queen that doesn’t have the type of name recognition and cannot come up with the alternate forms of identification to prove their pseudonym? Current policy favors people like Roma who have public recognition but leaves these others in the dust." He later decried the vote, saying, "This decision is cowardly as our time frame to make a real impact on this issue will expire after we accept the sponsorship."

  • Xi'an Chandra Redack connected Facebook to the housing crisis: "Why are we listening to FB PR department instead of our own community stakeholders? FB is tech, linked to displacement and eviction crisis. The housing movement would be our allies in increasing pressure on them this year."

  • Jose Cital expressed frustration with the board: "Why am I here? I am supposed to represent youth and I am a person of color but my view is never listened to on this board. Everyone under 40 opposes the Facebook sponsorship. If we aren’t here to take a stand, why are we even doing this? I don’t care about raising money for a party, I care about making a difference."

Read the full minutes below.

SF Pride Minutes 5.17.15 by Julia Wong

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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