As of last week, Facebook now offers over 58 options to choose from in your personal profile’s “Gender” space.
No longer are we social media addicted humans confined to a restrictive “Male, Female” binary. This is newsworthy proof that Facebook as an empire is beginning to own its ability to affect the identities of its users in real ways.
Remember when you signed up for Facebook and the site asked you to check a Gender Box? What at first may have seemed like a simple practicality to you could have been a virtual battleground for those who struggle with the expression of gender-identity.
Checking the box was easy for me. I am personally a cis-gendered female. (In other words, I was assigned ‘female’ at birth and I also identify as psychologically and socially female.)
Not so easy for others.
That sign-up question could be considered a microcosm of society: people who do not identify as Female or Male often feel as though the world is telling them who they are, not the other way around. It didn’t help that Facebook effectively forced you into a box (you couldn’t make a profile if you didn’t want to choose).
Of course you can take to your Timeline and announce to the world that you’re a Trans Person with a status update, but now that the opportunity has been given to you on a more institutionalized platform, your identity might feel more acknowledged.
While some think the 58+ gender options are nonsense (Rush Limbaugh, I’m looking at you), many see the shift as a sign of formidable social progress. Come on people, it’s 2015. If you still refute that gender is a spectrum, you might want to check your biases right quick.
Now that Facebook has acknowledged the expansive essence of gender, hopefully this spectrum will be legitimized for the naysayers. Even if you think the company is run by a bunch of liberal hippies, remember that at the end of the day, FB is a business. They have recognized that without this personal profile adaptation they would be excluding a large portion of human beings from genuine participation.
Sure, now you might know more about your favorite professor’s identity than you had wanted to. Or maybe you’ll notice your co-worker is MTF (male-to-female). But this is good, and it starts a conversation we should all be having in order to facilitate a more inclusive human society.
It’s certainly true that our cultural addiction to social media can be problematic—but the fact that Facebook profiles as extensions of ourselves have now evolved to accommodate authentic gender expression is important and should not be ignored. While the 58+ options are not a fix-all, at least now you can tell the world exactly who you are if you so choose—not the other way around.
Author: Alli Sarazen
Editor: Renee Picard
Image: Screenshot (via the author)