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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Facebook No Longer Requires You to Be "Male" or "Female"

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 2:49 PM

click to enlarge LikeFacebook.jpg

Today Facebook rolled out some big changes that many of those in the LGBTQ community will surely "like." As reported in the AP, Facebook has added more than 50 gender options for users who don't identify as simply "male" or "female." Options now include identifiers like "agender," "FTM," "gender fluid," and "neither" in addition to some less common terms, such as "neutrois," "two-spirit," and "pangender."

"There's going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world," said Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, who worked on the project and is herself undergoing gender transformation, from male to female. On Thursday, while watchdogging the software for any problems, she said she was also changing her Facebook identity from Female to TransWoman.

While the new labels present a small step for Facebook users, it's also a giant leap for trans and gender non-conforming folks, who still face alarming rates of bullying, assault, and harassment. It's no ENDA or anything, but the new options on the social media megalith promote visibility and recognition to those who've been politically and historically denied them.

"All too often transgender people like myself and other gender nonconforming people are given this binary option, do you want to be male or female? What is your gender? And it's kind of disheartening because none of those let us tell others who we really are," Harrison continued. "This really changes that, and for the first time I get to go to the site and specify to all the people I know what my gender is."

While our preferred gender expression (unintentionally femme with a dash of hipster) isn't on the list, we applaud Facebook's attempts at inclusivity. 

click to enlarge fb_gender.png

  • On your profile page, click "about"
  • Then under Basic Information, click the "edit" button
  • Select the "custom" option
  • In the field that appears, type in your gender preference and a list of options will appear
If you're not sure which of the 58 options (including "male" and "female") best describe you, Slate  took the time to find out every possible option and typed up a list for you.

Some of the choices seem needlessly repetitive -- half of the options are descriptors for trans folks -- and we're not entirely sure that selections like "Trans Male" and "Trans Man" need their own boxes, but we're not here to rain on anyone's Pride parade. If you don't see an option that fits you, Facebook plans to revise and adapt the list based on user feedback, so speak up, or thumb up, or whatever you kids are calling it these days.

Anna Pulley writes the weekly Gayborhood Beat column. Follow and send tips to @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.


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Anna Pulley

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