What's your gender? Male, female, or 'custom'. You name it, says Facebook, with a new option that lets users of the social network describe their gender preferences and identities virtually any way they want.
Facebook said it collaborated with its 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.
In addition, Facebook said, 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).
Make Yourself Comfortable
A Facebook blog post touched on the thought process underlying the new options. An important part of being yourself and feeling comfortable, the post explained, "is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just ‘male’ or ‘female’.”
“We also have added the ability for people to control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender,” the company said on its Facebook Diversity page. “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 reaction so far has been mixed. Joseph L. Simonis commented on the Facebook post that it is “long overdue” while Zee Huff hopes the next step is “romantic preference” and relationship options like polyamory. The conversation got controversial, with words like “bigot” being assigned to those who oppose Facebook’s latest feature.
Others still aren’t satisfied that the changes go far enough. Alderbran Longabaugh-Burg wrote, “There is still no option to identify my relationship with my queer/genderqueer child without selecting Son or Daughter, even after they changed their profile to neutral pronouns.”
Extensive List of Gender Identities
For those interested in changing their gender identity on Facebook -- for some or all to see -- the list of possibilities is fairly extensive. There isn't one specific drop-down list of options, but with a little research, our team was able to identify 49 different gender descriptors that Facebook currently allows as alternatives to male and female, including 'other' and 'neither'.
The different Facebook gender options we were able to identify include the following:
Agender, androgyne, androgynous, bigender, non-binary, cis, cis female, cis male, cis man, cis woman, cisgender, cisgender female, cisgender male, cisgender man, cisgender woman, female to male, FTM, gender fluid, gender noncoforming, genderqueer, gender questioning, gender variant, intersex, male to female, MTF, neither, neutrois, other, trans, trans female, trans male, trans man, trans person, trans woman, trans*, trans* female, trans* male, trans* man, trans* woman, transgender person, transgender female, transmasculine, transsexual, transsexual female, transsexual male, transsexual man, transsexual person, transsexual woman, and two-spirit.
When you first choose the 'custom' alternative to male and female, Facebook presents a text box that seems like it will let you type in any description you like. Start typing, though, and you'll see that you can only choose from a subset of choices. For example, when we tried to specify gender as 'flexible', the app would not recognize that choice.
On the plus side, once you choose a 'custom' gender descriptor, Facebook gives plenty of flexibility regarding who can see that information. You can choose to show it to all friends or specific friends or groups of friends. You can also specifically prevent certain individuals or groups from seeing that one bit of very personal information.