Can’t. Even.

The Genie Can’t Even

I have a question to ask, dear readers. How many of you… own a smartphone, a tablet, a computer? Most of you might have at least one of these, yes? (Or you wouldn’t be reading this blog!)

Now, how many of you are on Facebook? Would I be correct in assuming that most of you are? And that just like me, you use FB to… document your lives, share photos, links, stay in touch with people, family, friends and acquaintances?

And that ain’t all you do, I’ll bet! There are perfume groups and, for lack of a better term, perfume congregations galore on Facebook also, where we can all get as silly or as solipcistic as we please over a favorite subject, which is … perfume!

I don’t know what I’d even DO without it.

Yet some time around Friday, I wondered at the sudden disappearance of one of my ultimate – and very much real-life – Facebook spots of sunshine, and yesterday, when that unease morphed into full-blown WTF, I came to discover that an old social media fracas has reared its ugly head all over again. Only this time, they might have messed with all the wrong people.

The justly renowned and celebrated perfume blogger, Portia Turbo-Gear of the likewise celebrated Australian Perfume Junkies, has become the latest victim of Facebook discrimination against performers who create their online identities via a pseudonym. Just as in another (viral) case last year with a San Francisco drag queen, his FB profile and his very existence has been called into question by Facebook, demanding verification of his true name and/or creating a page for his performing alter ego rather than the Facebook profile he has been using since the beginning.

We all know that pages – as opposed to personal profiles – are where virtual identities go to die before slinking away into obscurity.

But the bigger issue here is not so-called verification of identity, the bigger issue is discriminating against those who for myriad perfectly valid reasons choose to perform under a pseudonym they carry into the real and virtual world and use just as you and I – and I’m listed on Facebook under the same name as in my passport – would. Only because they’re performers and often prominent out-loud-and-proud members of the LGBT communities they live in, the “proof” they have to supply often exceeds far beyond what Facebook might require from the rest of us.

Which to the mind of this rabidly free-thinking former anarchist is all sorts of 5000% wrong.

Portia – whether in mufti or in full-on made up glory, has been a large and very dearly beloved part of my life since at least 2012. Although I have yet to meet him in person (trust me, it’s near the top of my list!), I can testify that his generosity to his friends, his authenticity as a magnificent human being and his heart which is surely at least the size of Australia is without peer. Much like his sense of humor, in which case, throw in Eurasia, and you might have an idea. I recall a Skype session – at 3 AM Sydney time – that had me in tears, I was laughing so hard and felt… so loved.

When life itself proved a challenge these past two years, often a private message, an email or an off-color comment on something I posted would get my brain back on track and put a smile – at least – back on my face.

Besides, no one else calls me Princess. Thanks to Portia’s indelible imprint, no one else will ever be allowed to. Having done so much to make my own drab days brighter, it’s time for me to return the favor the only way I can.

I don’t believe in or condone discrimination in any size, shape or form for any reasons at all. I also emphatically believe in supporting my true friends – which Portia certainly is. So here’s what you, I and the perfume community that is the readership of the Alembicated Genie can do – take this post viral. Reblog it if you can. Retweet it. Share it on Facebook wherever you can. A Facebook group has been created – Bring Back Portia Turbo-Gear, and the membership is growing by the minute. Join us!

Once upon a time, the issue of identity might have been a static, unmoving one. But if the virtual life we’ve all lived since at least 2007 has taught me anything at all, identity – whether you’re a celebrated drag queen or a garden-variety writer (in leopard-print PJs) is a fluid, flexible entity each and every one of us reinvent each and every day – through our daily choices, our daily selves, and even our daily status updates.

A reinvention option that everyone deserves no matter what they call themselves, how they live or what they believe in.

I believe that’s the true meaning of the phrase ‘freedom of expression’.

Which Facebook in this instance has no business at all trying to curtail.

Portia at work on New Year's Eve, a.k.a Conchita-with-A-Bratwurst.

Portia at work on New Year’s Eve, a.k.a Conchita-with-A-Bratwurst.

23 thoughts on “Can’t. Even.

  1. That is truly appalling news! I’m actually one of those very rare people who do not have and have never had a fb account. That being said, I find it absolutely awful and illogical for them to do what they have done. Yes, bring back Portia!!!!!!

    1. So far as I’m aware, Portia’s profile was reported as “fake”, which got this whole thing started. And no, Carol, I guess they haven’t… dropped all that! 😦

  2. FB wants performers, artists and others to have a separate “performer ID” page, which is incredibly limiting compared to a profile page. They state it’s for verification, but who knows? The bigger question is… who reported Portia for being fake? That’s what chills my blood…

    1. That is what I had read and thought they weren’t cracking down on this sort of thing anymore…which brings up that point – who the hell reported Portia!?

  3. I’m so sorry to hear this and I thank you for letting us know. I have done my part on Facebook, where I rarely go anymore as I just can’t support their policies.
    Like you, I consider Portia to be a dear friend even though we’ve never met. I am heartbroken that this has happened to such a lovely, kindhearted and gentle soul. I hope that our love, support and action will help to ease the pain this has caused.

  4. I contribute in various facebook perfume groups. I also work in social media. It’s not likely that someone reported this profile. Facebook has been removing profiles for non-compliance for about a year now. I do think we all assumed it was over with. Part of the problem here is that people are beginning to see Facebook as a fundamental “right”. It’s not. It’s a private service which we all use for free. They make the rules. We’ve been led into thinking that this is a public service, but it isn’t. Again, it’s a private service. I’m not saying that I fully understand Facebook’s rules, but that’s not the point. If a profile has broken a rule, then it’s always at risk of being deleted. So, it might be safer and easier for him to just use his real name, the way the rest of us do. Problem solved.

    1. Like you, I also work in social media. Having said that, I’ve been informed that Portia’s profile was reported as fake, which doesn’t make this case any less outrageous. Yet I can’t agree with your statement that people regard Facebook as a basic “right”, nor that they make the rules. FB has had numerous issues with their privacy policies since their inception, and I don’t think there should be anything public about its usage and/or membership except a greater degree of transparency on their part. This is not at all about using your real name – this is precisely about a user’s right to protect themselves online, including the right to use a pseudonym or not , and to draw a distinction between an online and offline identity. Facebook is a business, and their insistence on preferring real names as opposed to pseudonyms is not just a question of access to all our online habits and preferences, but extremely targeted advertising, whether or not they state it outright. (This is how they make money.) Many pseudonym users have very valid reasons to choose a virtual identity – for branding purposes, for privacy, for safety or peace of mind. But a service business – as Facebook surely is – is only relevant to the extent people are using that service, and that is where the ordinary user has power, as the San Francisco case proved last year, when Facebook was forced to recant their stance due to public pressure. Using a real name is not at all a ‘safer’ option. Don’t believe me? One word: Gamergate. Social media has the power to either enrich or utterly destroy both our online and offline lives – something we’d all do well to remember, whatever we choose to call ourselves.

  5. I woke up one morning to discover Facebook refused to let me sign in under the name I created my account with from the beginning. The name my friends and family have called me for 25 years, I understand his pain and frustration….perhaps if enough of us stand together, we can get our names back….

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