Facebook now lets you describe your gender

The latest move is a step away from the previous process that required you to choose from a list of predefined genders.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Facebook users can now type in their own term to describe their gender. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Facebook members can now use any terms they wish to describe their gender.

Announced Thursday on a Facebook Diversity post, the new option lets you add a customized description to your profile if you feel that one of the predefined terms doesn't accurately describe your gender. Previously, Facebook limited you to certain choices beyond "male" and "female," such as "transsexual" or "transgender." But now the gender field is free-form, so you can type anything you wish.

Identifying or changing your listed gender is simple enough to do. On your Facebook page, click the link to Edit Profile under your name and photo. In the About section on your Edit Profile page, click the link for Contact and Basic Info. On the right, hover over the Gender field under Basic Information and click the Edit link. Then click the Gender dropdown box. You can choose Female, Male or Custom. Choosing Custom gives you the opportunity to type your own term for your gender.

You can also decide which pronoun you'd like others to use when they contact you: him, her or them. You can also make your gender public or share it just with certain people, such as friends or friends of friends. And you can choose whether to display your gender on your Facebook timeline.

As Facebook describes the new change:

Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own. As before, you can add up to ten gender terms and also have the ability to control the audience with whom you would like to share your custom gender. We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.

For now, the custom gender option is available only to Facebook users in US English.

This latest move is part of Facebook's attempt to create a more user-friendly site for members of the LGBT community. At the same time, the social network has faced complaints from gay rights activists over its real-name policy, which required you to use your birth name to identify yourself in your profile. Last year, the company tweaked its guidelines by adding an "authentic name" policy, which asks you to use the name you use in real life, not necessarily your legal name. But the new policy has drawn its own complaints, according to The Verge.

Facebook did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.