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LGBT Groups Help Facebook Develop Custom-Gender Tool

By / Feb 19, 2014 (via the Facebook Diversity Facebook page)

Facebook worked with a number of LGBT advocacy groups to compile a list of more than 50 terms for people to use to describe their gender identity.

Users of the world’s largest social network now have more options to more accurately describe themselves, thanks to Facebook’s new feature offering dozens of ways to express one’s gender identity.

Facebook announced last week that it will begin offering a custom gender field for its transgender and gender-neutral users. The new feature lets users select from a list of over 50 custom gender options, indicate their preferred pronouns, and adjust privacy settings for the custom gender field.

“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,” Facebook said in a statement on its diversity page. “An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just ‘male’ or ‘female.’ So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook.”

Facebook developed the tool with the help of its Network of Support, a group of LGBT advocacy organizations that includes the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLADD), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

“Over the past few years, a person’s Facebook profile truly has become their online identity, and now Facebook has taken a milestone step to allow countless people to more honestly and accurately represent themselves,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Facebook’s action is one that I hope others heed in supporting individuals’ multifaceted identities.”

Allison Palmer, former vice president of campaigns and programs at GLAAD, who worked on the project, said she is happy to see the social media giant respond to the requests of the transgender community to develop this tool. “Facebook’s new gender options will make a difference to many transgender and gender-nonconforming users, who are now empowered to accurately describe their own identities on the platform,” she said in a statement.

The change comes amid a wave of support for the growing and increasingly more-open transgender community. In the past year, the Association of Transgender Professionals was launched to promote greater acceptance of gender expression in the workplace, and the American Bar Association released a first-of-its-kind guide on the various legal issues that can affect a transgender person.

Facebook isn’t the first social network to expand its gender options—in 2011, Google+ added “other” to the gender-selection list—but transgender advocates told the Associated Press that Facebook’s expansive list puts the platform well ahead of any other online community.

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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