Inclusive Facebook gender options get a like

Inclusive Facebook gender options get a like  (credit: Kyung Min Lee/) Inclusive Facebook gender options get a like (credit: Kyung Min Lee/)

In a daring and progressive move, Facebook recently unveiled more than 50 customizable terms for users to label their gender. Previously, users had been limited to the gender binary of male or female, as well as the option to refuse answering altogether.

Now, users have their pick of terms with which to identify, including variations upon transgender, genderfluid, genderqueer, and agender. Each person is also given a choice of preferred pronoun: his, hers, or theirs. For a social media giant, this step is unprecedented in support of the trans* community that should be celebrated, despite certain drawbacks.

Facebook’s new gender options are an enormous victory for the trans* — and, by extension, the LGBTQ — community. According to ABC News, Facebook software engineer and out trans woman Brielle Harrison has stated, “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.”

This statement couldn’t be more apt. With the highest rates of violent discrimination and attempted suicide in the LGBT community, “T” remains the most stigmatized letter of the acronym, according to Slate magazine. Considering this extreme prejudice, the number of people who identify under the trans* umbrella is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately measure. To a trans* minority, however, being free to self-identify on such a major social media site will be invaluable.

Additionally, Facebook’s decision to recognize non-cisgender identities could encourage people to educate themselves about the gender spectrum. It is more important now than ever to raise public awareness and acceptance of gender identities outside of the traditional binary. Other social media venues would do well to follow in Facebook’s example and not simply by including the ambiguous “other” in their list of options.

Of course, the company has garnered criticism for its decision. As must be true with any progressive step forward, some have criticized Facebook for going too far in blurring the lines of gender; others counter that Facebook didn’t go far enough. From a practical standpoint, expanding gender options may complicate censuses and directed advertising, just by virtue of there being more variables.

However, the trans* community shows that anything that divides the world into man versus woman is terribly limited in the first place.