That time Facebook stole my name.

Names are important.  They can help build our character, shape our identity and provide us with a way to always start a conversation with a stranger.  Names can also change over time and won’t necessarily relate to the name provided to you at birth.

Likelihood is you won’t just have one name.  Nicknames, pet names, joke names I have dished out a fair few to my nearest and dearest at one point in time… Fergatron, Tom Tom, E, Smell, Grumpy Gus, Do Ron Ron, Huffy Puff…the list does go on and will grow and probably become more annoying to my friends but part of them surely experiences a tiny jolt of pleasure from the homage.

Think about how it feels when your significant other calls you by that name, the one that naturally appeared one day and, when first spoken, filled you with deep and comforting warmth which spread around your body.  The one that can be used in times of stress to calm, to top the already finest day with a bright red cherry of love and which now encompasses so much of your togetherness that thinking about it too hard could lead to ugly happy tears.

Now think about your own name.  For some this will be an extremely straightforward question but for others?  Well for others it can take a bit more time to arrive to an honest answer.  I’ve always been uncomfortable with my full name…“Danielle”.  To date the only people to ever use this name are stubborn family members, my parents if I was in trouble (“DANN-EEE-YELL!!”), doctors, dentists, teachers who hated me, strangers and my close friends who know how much I hate it (I’m looking at you Cunty)! 

For most of my life I have been known as Dani but for the past 8 years a new name has followed me around.  Danger Mouth was my chosen name when I started playing Roller Derby and has become cemented into my history by the most wonderful group of fearless women, supportive men and life changing experiences.  An overwhelming sense of belonging and acknowledgement I hadn’t realised I yearned for until I was immersed in this new world.  My newly found confidence and budding self-belief enabled me to start living a life that was mine, which I built and this saturated my new name with so much strength, joy, understandings and acceptance that it holds the power to conjure these feelings when I’m perhaps not feeling worthy as I should.

So when Facebook sent me a notification that someone had reported me for posing as someone I was not on the social networking platform I was little hurt but confident I could clear up the confusion. How wrong was I?  Facebook sent a pleasant email with lots of examples of proofs you can send, reassuring you that this can be things like library cards, official letters, bank statements, utility bills and does not need to be official government documentation, but does need to be the name you use in everyday life.  I stupidly provided my passport the first time round, assuming there would be scope for a justification of why I was Danger King and that I needed the name as no one knows who this Danielle person is. WRONG! They changed my name to reflect my passport in 3 mins, despite my protests that this was not an authentic name.  I was honestly 100% gutted.

Visiting Facebook or any of the many apps I use connected to the network (Netflix, Gmail, Instagram, YouTube) I didn’t recognise the handle.  I feel like I’ve regressed a bit in the months since this has happened, getting pangs of disappointment anytime someone tagged ‘Danielle’ into a post or a photo because this isn’t me.  There is power in a name and I don’t accept this one.

I’m the tip of the iceberg really, I’m not trying to hide my identity from anyone but some people are.  There are those who need to use fake names or pseudonyms to protect themselves and their families from abuse, those who have a name that will not fit with their gender, irrespective of how they choose to identify themselves or perhaps a burlesque performer, fabulous drag queen, a teacher who doesn’t want the kids they teach to harass them or just someone who really f**king hates their name! 

There is a movement which has been created in retaliation to Facebooks detrimental ‘Authentic Name’ policy, organising protests, collecting user stories (#MyNameIs) and have penned an open letter to Facebook asking them to review their policy which is damaging vulnerable people. www.mynameiscampaign.org

It’s an ordeal to get a response from Facebook, let alone procedures for consistency.  It’s like they have been briefed to antagonise and victimise Facebook Users as much as possible before simply ignoring any further attempts to supply proofs, suspending your account with no hope of revival. Hence I’m 3 profiles deep, one under my Government approved name, one suspended and one currently open for now.  I have officially changed my name by deed poll and am in the process of changing my government IDs to reflect this.  The one good thing about this ordeal, it has forced me to realise how much I have grown in the past decade and how significant Danger is to me.  Gone are the days of longing to introduce myself as Danger but getting shy and reverting to Dani or apologising for the weird name I just muttered at you.  Humans I hold dear to me know the score believe in who I am and support me with this stubborn, crazy decision. 

For the record, I don’t except people to suddenly start calling me Danger, but if you want to I won’t mind one little bit.