Music
1 min

Why Facebook won’t let this gay artist change his band’s name to something gayer

‘Get me Zuckerberg, I will kiss him, I will make him believe it,’ musician Will Riley says

Will Riley’s request to change his Facebook page’s name to The Gays, the name of his latest project, was denied. Credit: Courtesy Will Riley

Will Riley is gay. And he makes pretty gay music.

“There’s all these gay artists like Perfume Genius and Owen Pallett, and all these fantastic artists and they’re making a lot of music that’s really, really hyper gay,” he says. “We just wanted to take that one step further.”

So the Montreal musician decided to name his next musical project The Gays.

The Gays’ first album, The Agenda, released on Valentine’s Day, includes such gay tracks as “Pretty Boys Make Me Feel Ugly,” “No Love in the Village” and “The Definitive Answer to Being Gay.”

So it was a bit of a surprise to Riley when Facebook wouldn’t let him register his band’s name for a page. When he tried to change the name on his page from The Willing, the name of his previous project, to The Gays, he was denied.

“They were like, we feel like it’s really confusing to your listenership and misrepresentative of what you’re doing,” he says. “We appealed that and said we think it’s a pretty apt description for what we are and what we represent, as our album is all about gay issues and gay experiences.”

According to Facebook’s guidelines, page names can’t include “misleading words” or “terms or phrases that may be abusive or violate someone’s rights.”

Riley is willing to go the extra mile to prove to Facebook that his band’s name is accurate.

“Get me Zuckerberg, I will kiss him, I will make him believe it,” he says.

Facebook’s opaque policy around page names and what counts as abusive or misleading is reminiscent of The Slants, an Asian-American rock group that wasn’t allowed to register their name as a trademark because it was deemed offensive. In 2017, they challenged the decision all the way to the United States Supreme Court and won.

Riley, who is the only member of The Gays, points out that the Barenaked Ladies, who do have an active Facebook page, are not ladies and do not perform naked.

“The story’s not over. We’re still not The Gays and we will be, by the end of the goddamn day,” he says.