Facebook offers more ways to express gender beyond 'male' and 'female'

New options include 'Trans,' 'Genderqueer' and 'Androgynous'

Facebook hangs a rainbow flag at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Facebook hangs a rainbow flag at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
  • Facebook hangs a rainbow flag at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
  • Facebook's gender selection tool, as pictured on Feb. 13, 2014.
View all images

Facebook, in a move that acknowledges real social issues around gender identity, has updated its site to give people more ways to express their gender.

The changes make available to users a list of roughly 50 different terms they can use to identify themselves. Among them: "Trans," "Trans Female," "Trans Male," "Genderqueer," "Gender Variant" and even "Androgynous," a term used for describing combined male and female characteristics. In addition, users can choose among three pronouns to be used in referring to them: "her," "him" or "them."

Facebook has incorporated privacy controls into the term selections. If users choose one or several of these new options, they can use Facebook's settings to control with whom their new classification is shared, such as 'public' or 'just friends.'

The choice of pronoun, however, is always public. If a person chooses "neutral" for the pronoun, then instead of Facebook saying, "Wish her a happy birthday" on someone's special day, the site will say, "Wish them a happy birthday."

The new options can be accessed from a person's "About" page, by clicking on "Custom" in the drop-down menu for gender.

To make the changes and decide which terms to add, Facebook worked with a group of LGBT advocacy organizations, with the nonprofit Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD, leading the charge. Other groups involved in the effort included The Trevor Project, which provides crisis and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth (the "Q" stands for questioning), and the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center.

Facebook said it made the changes to help people be true to themselves while using the site. "When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self," the company said Thursday in an announcement on its Diversity page.

An important part of one's sense of self, Facebook said, is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond just "male" or "female."

Facebook performance report signals rising brand engagement with social
Facebook rejection, acceptance the subject of Queensland PHd thesis
Mobile ad spending leaps at Facebook

The move shows that Facebook, a California-based company, is not afraid to take a stand on a controversial issue. A fair number of users seemed supportive of the changes, judging by the more than 2,000 likes generated by the announcement shortly after it was published. Facebook has more than 1.2 billion monthly active users.

Some of Facebook's biggest competitors do not offer a similar gender identification tool. Twitter does not let people express their gender. In addition to "male" and "female," Google Plus only provides an "other" option.

Advertisers on Facebook can choose to target people by gender, but they cannot target people based on any of the new classification terms, a company spokesman said. However, advertisers can target them based on the pronoun they choose.

The choice of one of the new terms doesn't show up as an event on the user's timeline.

Facebook's new gender options are only available in the U.S. right now, but the company is working on rolling them out to other countries.

Facebook already has incorporated some LGBT awareness into how it lets people display their relationship status. Besides the traditional "single" or "in a relationship," users can also choose from "in a civil union" or "in a domestic partnership."

In spite of the new list of options available to them, some users in online comments were already suggesting ways Facebook could apply their new thinking to different areas of the site. For example, the "interested in" field, which lets people express their romantic interests, is still only limited to "women" and "men."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

To DMP or not to DMP?

There are plenty of brands that can benefit from plugging into a data management platform. But should you engage an agency to run one or bring it in-house?

Ben Willee and Richard Taylor

Spinach Advertising

Innovations in retail will bring creative and technology closer than ever

While approaching a customer in a shop and asking what you can help them with is Retail 101, how many of us actually enjoy being approached? Generally, you have to give the forced, fake smile and say, “Just browsing, thanks,” while screaming on the inside, “just leave me alone!” Maybe it’s just me?

Jason Dooris

CEO and founder, Atomic 212

There’s a brand in my digital soup

Not a day passes by in the life of business executives where digital innovation or the prospect of disruption is not front of mind. This in turn, drives an unrelenting flow of questioning, discussion and strategy papers.

Jean-Luc Ambrosi

Author, marketer

Marin Software’s digital marketing solution as a short way of streamlining and finding a scalable solution...

Al Drazhev

How BizCover is boosting search advertising success

Read more

It is really inspiring to see that medial psychology & machines are going hand in hand to innovate new things and even are improving ...

CBT Professionals

How psychology is shaping better machine learning

Read more

Anything is achievable when you talk the talk .. good luck

Mo Al Hooti

Data Creative crowns Matt Bates as new CMO

Read more

Great hire and good luck Andrew. I am sure you'll do a fabulous jobRob

Rob

Amaysim marketing and commercial chief joins property tech investment startup

Read more

I need to be reborn before i can grow up & become a contestent.

Kaye Peterkin

Channel Nine's content now streamed digitally on 9Now

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in