Facebook will now allow people in the US to set custom genders instead of having to choose either male or female, allowing people who identify as transgendered, cisgendered or anything else to decide how they are represented, reports Ellis Hamburger for The Verge.
“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. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just ‘male’ or ‘female’,” Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) wrote in a post on the Facebook Diversity page.
Users won’t have to share their custom gender publicly
Facebook will allow people who choose a custom gender to decide with pronouns will be used to refer to them: he/his, she/her, or they/their.
“We also have added the ability for people to control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender. We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others,” said the Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) post, recognizing that transgendered people still face discrimination and bullying.
While Facebook worked out the new policy with the LGBT advocacy group Network of Support, it hasn’t completely changed its paradigm. One user responded to the post by pointing out that children can still only be referred to as Son or Daughter, signifiers that don’t mesh with the move to transgender inclusiveness.
Facebook’s inclusiveness is good for advertisers
Politics aside, it makes sense for Facebook to give users more ways to distinguish themselves, since targeted advertising relies on having accurate demographic information. It seems reasonable that people who identify as transgendered or cisgendered (note: cisgendered means that a person identifies as the gender they were born with, but usually shows solidarity with the LGBT movement) might have very different interests than someone who is happy to select male or female and move on to other parts of the profile. This higher degree of specificity will help companies that advertise with Facebook to narrow down their audience more precisely.
For now, the option is only available in the US. The company may want to roll it out slowly to see just how much controversy it generates (and it wouldn’t be surprising if the option is never made available in more religiously conservative countries), but other liberal countries will likely have the same option before long.