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Sister Roma (centre) speaks to press about the Facebook name policyCammy Blackstone via Facebook

Facebook apologises to drag queens for ‘real name’ policy

Sister Roma and Lil Miss Hot Mess have won their fight for recognition

Facebook has apologised to drag queens and transgender users for deleting their accounts under a controversial policy that required members of the site to use their "real" (i.e. legal) names. 

The social network will not backtrack on the policy itself, which is intended for security reasons and to make it easier to track anonymous users who spread malicious content online. But it now calls for people to "use the authentic name they use in real life", acknowledging how "painful" the experience had been for drag queens and trans people.

Drag queen and LGBT activist Sister Roma was one of the hundreds of users whose account had been suspended until she switched to her legal name. The San Francisco performer has actively campaigned against the "unfair and discriminatory" policy, arguing that drag queens aren't the only people affected. 

"There are a million people on Facebook who use chosen and protective names for a million good reasons. There are millions of users who do not have a legal form of identification that proves their true identity," she wrote. Under the system, Facebook users must provide some form of ID to verify that they are using their real names. 

Fellow San Francisco drag queen Lil Miss Hot Mess told the New York Times that being forced to use her legal name had been a traumatic experience. "I felt as though I had been outed,” she said. “It’s not like I’m hiding from the world, but it’s important for me to keep these identities separate."

Chief product officer Chris Cox said in a statement: "I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we've put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks."

He added: "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."

The uproar over the policy has caused LGBT users to migrate en masse to emerging social network Ello (even if nobody has really figured out what to do on it). Hopefully Facebook will make good on their promise to improve their real name policy – because if there's one thing they should have learned by now, it's not to mess with a fierce queen.