I’m a public school teacher, a domestic abuse survivor, and a circus performer. I desperately need to keep those areas of my life separate, for my safety and my job. Being forced to use my real name took away my agency to be all three.
I lost my performance contacts, gigs, and circus students. My account has always had strict privacy, but now students could find me, and I had to walk a delicate line of turning down their friends requests while not hurting feelings, as well as fielding uncomfortable questions about the colorful characters on my friends list.
I feared logging in and seeing my abuser’s name as a request. I alerted all my friends that I was now visible, and asked them not to respond to any queries he might send their way, with a photograph of him to those who didn’t know him as he’d stalked and harassed friends of mine in the past. He did show up to a couple of events that I’d RSVP’d to before the change, but fortunately a friend alerted me so I could change plans.
When I was using my chosen performer name, my life was mine, to control as I wished. I was safe, I had job security, I was the self I choose to be, not who I have been forced to be by circumstance. The life I have spent years building for myself and the community of support I rely on were both taken from me in an instant by the “real names” policy.