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!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Cannes Part 1: Why brands must put human interactions at the heart of their business

As a Media Juror at this year’s Cannes Lions, I was fortunate enough to attend the world’s most influential festival of creativity and listen to thought-leading marketers from around the globe.

Nickie Scriven

CEO, Zenith

4 creative skills that will be useful forever

In recent times, the clarion call from futurists, economists, marketers, educators and leaders the world over is one of slight panic, “The world is changing and you’re not ready for it!” And of course, they make a very good point.

Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory

Speakers, trainers, co-authors

Why defining brand strategy is vital to capitalising on quick wins

Big brands were once protected from small brands by high barriers to entry. Big brands had the resources to employ big agencies, to crack big ideas and to invest in big campaigns. They had the luxury of time to debate strategies and work on long-term innovation pipelines. Retailers used to partner with big brands.

Troy McKinnna

Co-founder, Agents of Spring, Calm & Stormy

Being an investor who has an understanding of the finance industry, I would question the validity of this article, judging by the impairm...

Rowan

How a customer-led digital transformation has helped this CMO generate $6m in incremental business

Read more

An interesting update considering that today is the easiest way it has ever been to measure contribution to the business as well as the h...

Frederic

State of the CMO 2019: Tenure shortens, pressure is on as marketers strive to demonstrate impact

Read more

I thought this was what Salesforce Audience Studio (formerly Salesforce DMP) was supposed to do. How are a CDP and a DMP different? I'm c...

Tony Ahn

Salesforce announces customer data platform

Read more

Well written Vanessa!! Agreed with your view that human experience is marketing's next frontier. Those businesses who are focused on the ...

Clyde Griffith

Forget customer experience, human experience is marketing's next frontier

Read more

Great tips for tops skills need to develop and stay competitive

Nick

The top skills needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing workforce

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in