Users asked. Facebook listened. They’ve added a customizable list of terms and pronouns for people to identify their gender.
For years, people who don’t identify as M or F have been lobbying Facebook for options that would allow them to more genuinely identify themselves, as well as the ability to have pronouns available beyond the binary “he” or “she”. Google+ has “other” as a choice, but the list of options Facebook would give would put it “well ahead of any other online community.”
This huge announcement means that people can select M, F, or Custom. They refine that M or F definition (Cis Male, Cisgender Male, Cis Female, Cisgender Female). They can choose from across the trans* spectrum (Transmasculine, Trans Person, Trans Woman, Trans*, and more), all kinds of other designations (Agender, Pangender, Androgyne, Genderqueer, Gender Questioning, Intersex, Bigender, Neutrois, Gender Variant, and more), or undefined choices (Other, Neither). There are about 50 choices, plus the prounouns “he”, “she” or “they”.
I test drove it myself*. You can also select multiple genders. If you are a Genderqueer Cis Male, they’ve got you covered. Androgynous Cis Man? Check and check. The array is stunning. Two-spirit. Yes, that’s there. And while there are people who will argue that they are conflating gender and sex on some points, they have gone above and beyond to move towards an experience that is easy to use and inclusive.
This gives people the ability to not only identify themselves very specifically, if they choose, but to change their terms if, when, or as the way they see themselves changes.
Facebook is recognizing that gender is a spectrum or a continuum, and many people exist or move along it, while not taking away the Male and Female terms that many others live in very happily.
An announcement of Facebook’s Diversity Page says this:
When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just “male” or female.” So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook.
We collaborated with our Network of Support, a group of leading LGBT advocacy organizations, to offer an extensive list of gender identities that many people use to describe themselves. Moreover, people who select a custom gender will now have the ability to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly — male (he/his), female (she/her) or neutral (they/their).
We also have added the ability for people to control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender. We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.
The new custom gender option is available to everyone who uses Facebook in U.S. English. To learn more, visithttps://www.facebook.com/help/276177272409629.
This is a giant step forward towards the recognition of those who live outside of the “Check M or F” boxes of the world, and:
Facebook came up with its range of terms after consulting with leading gay and transgender activists, and the company plans to continue working with them. Facebook started the options in the U.S. and plans to take it global after working with activists abroad to come up with terms appropriate in other countries. (APNewsBreak)
It’s not perfect. There’s sure to be anger from various sides. But this move, supported by Facebook staffers, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), The Transgender Law Center, is unprecedented and, for many, unexpected.
And yes, you can still hide Gender this on your timeline and mark it Only Me. So if you don’t identify to anyone but yourself, that’s fine, too.
*Author’s note: on 2/13/14 I had to switch from UK English to US English to get it to work.
*In order to learn to use the new option, you can go to the Custom Gender Option Instructions. This is what I used for Test Drive.
Photos courtesy of the author.
Like The Good Men Project on Facebook
(We’re a very inclusive sort of bunch.)