Facebook Increases Gender Options

By
Alyssa Pasicznyk

Dateline
Updated Fri, Feb 14, 2014 6:34 pm

For the last five years of its existence, Facebook has only allowed users to identify as either "male" or "female."

Now, after working with LGBT advocacy groups, the site allows users to customize their gender and choose from a list of about 50 different gender identifiers.

Some of these terms include gender fluid, pan-sexual, bi-gender and transsexual.

In addition to new gender options, users can also now choose their preferred pronoun as either "he," "she" or a neutral "them."

"It's nice to have a recognition of here's the words I use for my gender, not a blank space not just 'other,' here's the word I prefer," said Ohio University senior and LGBT member Jesper Beckholt.

Beckholt identifies as pan-sexual, and explains that these options will encourage people to look up gender identifiers that they do not understand.

"I'm pretty out in every aspect of my life, and it makes it easier [because] if I have a random friend on Facebook they can see my gender and my preferred pronouns and know that, and I don't necessarily have a big conversation with them," Becholt said.

Facebook added these new gender options on February 13, a date that many think should have happened years ago.

Director of the Ohio University LGBT Center, Delfin Bautista, is someone who believes that the new Facebook gender options are long overdue.

"Every day I would get an email from Facebook... because I hadn't selected a gender because the only options were male or female," Bautista said.

The LGBT Director was one of many who for years signed online petitions to add more gender options to Facebook.

"Hopefully we can just operate in a society where a lot of those boxes don't matter anymore, but, until then, the boxes do pack a wallop and so being able to select gender identity that really reflects who you are can be very empowering and very wholeizing."

Bautista also hopes that the university will notice Facebook's recent changes and make it easier for transgender students to change their names on campus.

Although the general response on social media was positive, several conservative organizations did not share the enthusiasm. The associated press spoke to Focus on the Family's issues analyst, Jeff Johnston, who shared his opinions.

"Of course Facebook is entitled to manage its wildly popular site as it sees fit, but here is the bottom line: It's impossible to deny the biological reality that humanity is divided into two halves - male and female," Johnston said.

Fox News also commented on the change, but received more heat for their harsh response.

The Huffington Post reports that Fox News radio host Todd Starnes commented about the changes in a Facebook post saying, "What if you identify as a pine cone or a chicken or a weed whacker?"

Beckholt acknowledges that this is a small change, but said that will hopefully help make many people feel more accepted.

"Part of it's just a nice thing of a large social network that a lot of people are members of now [LGBT members] have better options for representing our gender," Beckholt said.

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