Stuff co.nz 27 February 2015
Facebook users who don’t fit any of the site’s 58 gender identity options can now choose how to define themselves freely.
The social media giant has added a 59th option: fill in the blank.
“Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own,” said a Facebook announcement published online today.
Facebook software engineer Ari Chivukula, who identifies as transgender and was part of the team that made the free-form option, thinks the change will lead to more widespread acceptance of people who don’t identify themselves as a man or woman.
“We’re hoping this will open up the dialogue,” Chivukula said.
Alison CK Fogarty, a gender identity researcher at Stanford University, said giving users control over the words describing their gender is a significant step in social recognition of a growing transgender community, especially coming from the world’s largest social media company.
“People are still fighting to make room for gender identity within the socially constructed binary of male and female,” Fogarty said. “Labels and identities are powerful in that they give a sense of community, a way of articulating one’s experience.”
In February 2014, Facebook expanded gender identity from male and female to a list of dozens of options, including Androgyne, Gender Fluid, Intersex, Neither and Transgender. Those choices will all still be available.
People who choose a custom gender can also choose the pronoun they would like to be referred to publicly: he/his, she/her or they/their.