Facebook expands gender options for user profiles

With the help of LGBT activist groups, the social network makes its gender labels more inclusive so people can be their "authentic self."

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
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Facebook's diversity page. Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

Facebook recognizes that not everybody identifies themselves simply as a "male" or "female," so it's added the ability for users to identify themselves with a range of labels, including "other."

People can now select a custom gender identification, the pronoun they would like to be referred to publicly, and who can see their gender selection, Facebook announced Thursday. Your About page will now include options like "cisgender," "transgender," and "intersex," in addition to the previous "male" and "female" options.

Click to enlarge. Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

You can also select your preferred pronoun. Instead of "his" or "her," which is used in messages like "Write on Matt's wall for his birthday," users can select a gender neutral pronoun. The text will read "Write on Matt's wall for their birthday."

Users can also select which of their predesignated groups can see what gender they identify with. The options are only available in the US for now, but the company hopes to expand this to other users in the future.

Facebook made the announcement on its Facebook diversity page, saying it enlisted the help of "leading LGBT advocacy organizations," including GLAAD, to come up with the preset labels.

"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," reads a post on Facebook's 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."

GLAAD said it's worked with Facebook since 2010 to combat online bullying that targets those in the LGBT community, and creating an inclusive environment furthers those efforts.

"Facebook users from across the country have been asking for the ability to reflect their gender accurately, and today Facebook showed they have been listening," former GLAAD President Allison Palmer said in a press release about Thursday's news. Palmer worked with Facebook on the project. "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."

Updated, 2:26 p.m. PT: Added statement from GLAAD.