Social choices

Facebook is now allowing users to identify as any gender they want

Illustration by Shutterstock, Elena Scotti/Fusion

For Facebook users, 58 gender options wasn’t enough.

So starting today, the site is letting users type in anything they want in the gender field of their profiles.

Facebook

<span style="color:#999999;">Facebook</span>

Anything. Just as long as it’s not offensive, probably—Facebook declined to provide details on the review process.

Just over a year ago, the choices were male, female, or nothing. Then the site rolled out a dropdown menu with 56 more options—things like Cis Female, Transfeminine, Two-Spirit, and Androgyne. Now that dropdown menu will still appear, but you’ll also be able to override it with your own term, like “femme.”

(To see how it works, go to the “About” section of your profile and then edit the “Contact and Basic Info” section.)

The changes show just how progressive this generation’s views on gender identity have become. Last month, Fusion asked 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 34 whether gender was binary (i.e. male/female) or more like a spectrum. Half said it was more like a spectrum.

Last year’s additions went over well with LGBT users, but “the main was request was to expand it,” says Ari Chivukula, a Facebook engineer who is part of team referred to as the “custom gender team.” (Chivukula did not say how many people are on that team.)

“A lot of people still felt constrained by the options,” said Oliver Haimson, a researcher who studies social media and online identities at UC Irvine. “Facebook is just such an integral part of people’s lives.”

Facebook wouldn’t provide any data on how many people have been using the gender options announced last year. But in 2014 Haimson surveyed 371 individuals who had transitioned after joining Facebook.

The most popular identity by far was “genderqueer,” followed by trans and trans woman.

User Response to Facebook’s Custom Gender Options Study, 2014

<span style="color:#999999;">User Response to Facebook’s Custom Gender Options Study, 2014</span>

For now, only a small group of Facebook’s 1.39 billion users have the new DIY gender selection tool: the new free-form fields are only available in the U.S. English-language version.

 

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