It's one of the hardest things for those who don't identify as a specific gender: the Internet's drop-down menu demanding you select "Male" or "Female". Fortunately, as of Thursday afternoon, many of Facebook's 159 million monthly U.S. users won't have that problem. Instead, these users will now be able to choose from over 50 different terms commonly used to identify gender, including transsexual, androgynous, and gender fluid. They'll also be able to specify whether they prefer to be referred to by the pronoun "him," "her," or "them."
Wanna try it out? Go to "Basic Information" on your Facebook profile page and click "Edit." You'll see that when you open the drop-down menu next to "Gender" there are now three options: Female, Male and Custom. When you click "Custom" a new box appears which allows you to input up to 10 different terms to describe your gender. Underneath, you can customize your pronoun choice.
Of course, users still have the option of keeping their gender identity confidential. Additionally, changing your gender settings won't trigger a big announcement on people's news feeds, like it does when you change your relationship status.
Facebook told Bustle it consulted leading gay and transgender activists to help devise its list of terms, and intends to consult with similar activists worldwide to come up with appropriate terms in each country it serves.
"While to many this change may not mean much, for those it affects it means a great deal," Facebook spokesperson Slater Tow told Bustle. "We see this as one more way we can make Facebook a place where people can express their authentic identity."
Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, who's undergoing sex reassignment from male to female, told the Associated Press that she was very pleased about the new change.
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... 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.
Of course, there will always be those who won't be able to get their head around Facebook's new gender plurality, just as there are people who don't the changes go far enough. For example, one user commented under the company's announcement on its Facebook Diversity page that there was still no way to identify the relationship with her gender-queer child other than "son" or "daughter."
Make no mistake, this is a step in the right direction. The adoption of these changes by one of the world's most influential companies marks a significant advance in the fight for those who do not see gender as a binary concept.
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