Lena Chen – Artist and Writer
Three years ago, my account as Elle Peril was blocked on Facebook. I had been blocked on and off before, usually because there was an issue with nudity (a visible nipple, etc.) But in summer 2015, it was particularly fucked up because Facebook's "real name" policy demanded that I submit proof of my identity in order to claim my account back.
At that point, I'd been living and modeling as Elle Peril for 2.5 years. Having an alias was a way for me to feel sane and safe while being social. It kept me hidden from my Internet stalker. It allowed me to have a life again. Facebook contained my professional network as well as my personal contacts. When I lost access to my Facebook, I lost access to an entire support system.
I obviously didn't have proof that my name was "Elle Peril". I spent a few weeks (or months?) trying to rectify the situation, writing through the "normal" channels, then having friends call in favors with other friends at Facebook. And look, it was literally like talking to a robot. I couldn't get a human being to actually listen to my story and understand why I was using an alias and why the modeling images weren't evidence of catfishing but actually a therapeutic outlet for a survivor of revenge porn.
Shortly after my Facebook account was shut down, I had a mental breakdown. My paranoia spiraled and I became convinced that there was a government conspiracy against me, that everything I posted was being monitored, that some force out there would not permit me to rebuild my life. It sounds insane in retrospect, but I felt such a strong sense of persecution. As if I would forever be a victim within systems of power that did not recognize my pain or the crimes committed against me.
I'm not going to blame Facebook for my mental breakdown. It was just one of many factors that came into play. But losing access to my network and my newly created identity did not help my already fragile state. My case was not unique - there are many other groups affected by the Facebook "real name" policy, including sex workers, trans people, and abuse victims. I'm someone who is really privileged - I mean, I have friends who WORK at Facebook - and I was not able to get my account reinstated until a friend doctored an ID for me. I was very, very lucky to have so many people try to help on my behalf.
I post this story now, because my "Elle Peril" account was just suspended for 30 days for violating community standards. At this point, my two identities are integrated enough that this constitutes an inconvenience and not a crisis. It annoys me that someone bothered to report a link to a sensual video, when there are way more offensive things to get upset about - but then I remember that this is evidence of my power. Women's sexuality is a threat to the political order, and I have faced the most resistance at the moments when I have become most comfortable with who I am.
Three years later, I'm not afraid to live under my real name anymore.
(P.S. Friends of Elle Peril - message me on this account, email me, or call me for any urgent issues. I won't be back on the other account until late August.)