Facebook, on Thursday, moved beyond the male and female gender binary. Giving space to the diversity that exists in the gender spectrum, the social networking site now allows users to choose ‘custom’ gender identities.
Facebook’s new feature allows users to choose between several custom gender domains, listed and curated by the Menlo Park giant, in collaboration with its own Network of Support, a group of leading LGBT advocacy organisations. The idea is to present a diverse list of gender identities that most people might be able to fit themselves in.
With around 56 identities listed, an individual can choose up to 10 different options. With these ranging from Trans, Cisgender, Bigender and genderqueer, the platform promotes the concept of fluid gender identities. It also lets you control and regulate the visibility of your chosen gender identity – you can limit it to a certain section of friends, or keep it in the public domain.
In addition to choosing your gender, individuals who choose the ‘custom’ option can also choose the pronoun they wish to be associated with on the platform. In other words, it lets you choose whether you want it to be “XYZ changed her profile picture” or “XYZ changed his cover photo”. If the his/her is not what you resonate with, you can also opt for a gender neutral pronoun with them/their – “Wish XYZ on their birthday”.
Several groups have criticised the previously existing gender options. There have also been multiple petitions on change.org regarding the same. Though a move extremely late, it is one that was extremely necessary. What is important is that despite showing support to the LGBT community at various occasions, Facebook took so long in recognising the core of gender identities.
Over the years, social media has extended to be a significant expression of one’s identity, and major players have been biased when it came to gender. While Facebook restricted gender to the mainstream binary, Google+ left it simply between a Male, Female and ‘Other’. The fact was while the former was not giving a choice, the latter gave one that was a harsh attempt at othering a section of the society.
With Facebook moving beyond the ‘other’ and recognising several hues in the gender spectrum, it is high time the internet lives up to its characteristic feature of being open and welcoming.