Gender has gone beyond being labeled “male” or “female” on Facebook. The social media site has added a customizable option that includes 50 different terms people can use to identify their gender, along with the pronouns him, her, or them.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Facebook said the were “aimed at giving people more choices in how they describe themselves.” The change comes on the heels of the site being criticized in an article for The Week for “forcing people to chose male or female when creating profiles and asking those who hadn’t specified before the requirement to make a pronoun choice.
“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.
“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,” she said. “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.”
Facebook, which has 1.23 billion active monthly users around the world, also allows them to keep their gender identity private and will continue to do so.
At Facebook, staffers said the expanded options were never questioned, from CEO Mark Zuckerberg on down.
“Really, there was no debate within Facebook about the social implications at all,” said Alex Schultz, director of growth. “It was simple: Not allowing people to express something so fundamental is not really cool so we did something. Hopefully a more open and connected world will, by extension, make this a more understanding and tolerant world.”
Clutchettes, what do you think about the new changes on Facebook?