Facebook follows Google to bat for gender inclusivity

A couple of weeks ago, when Google gave a rainbow doodle to express solidarity with the LGBT community worldwide, liberal minded people rejoiced. They hoped Google’s move would inspire other biggies to bat for the sexual minorities and gender inclusivity. Well, the hope wasn’t misplaced. Facebook has followed suit by offering a new custom gender option. Instead of being forced to identify as either ‘male’ or ‘female’, on Facebook, you can now choose from over 50 different gender identities, including asexual, androgynous, transgender, genderqueer, gender-fluid, two-spirit and neutrois.

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Facebook collaborated with a group of leading LGBT advocacy organizations to offer this list of gender identities. People who select a custom gender on the platform can also choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly — male (he/his), female (she/her) or neutral (they/their). The company’s official announcement said: “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. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just ‘male’ or ‘female’.” Facebook has also tweaked the setting to let people control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender.

The list of gender identities is accessible only via an autocomplete drop-down menu within Facebook, but it is available to everyone who uses Facebook in US English. This move has drawn a flurry of responses on social media. While it drew kudos from many quarters, others were abusive. Interestingly, there were also several suggestions on how to make the social network even more LGBT friendly.

For example, Krystal Śmierć wrote: “Interested in” now needs to be fix (sic), it’s still only Female/Male.”

Aldebran Longabaugh-Burg wrote: “There is still no option to identify my relationship with my queer/genderqueer child without selecting Son or Daughter, even after they changed their profile to neutral pronouns.”

Joseph L. Simonis wrote: “This is long overdue! yay! also, wondering if you can please remove the word ‘prefer’ from the statements regarding pronouns. for most folks pronouns aren’t preferences, they just are.”

Zee Huff wrote: “I hope the next step is romantic preferences (re:gender), relationship options (re:polyamory), and family options (re:gender). Thanks Facebook.

YourStory applauds the move by Facebook. We believe that it is high time we entrepreneurs batted for the sexual minorities worldwide. In India, the constitution is yet to strike down a 19th century relic from British law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexuality. We had backed Google’s move asking if a society that violates the basic human rights of LGBTs, and discriminates against them, is what we identify with.

Are you with Google and Facebook on this? Let us know in the comments below.



Malavika Velayanikal

Malavika Velayanikal

Malavika Velayanikal is Executive Editor of YourStory.com and an innovation junkie . She is hooked to bold ideas. Got a NEWS TIP related to anything in the world of tech, startups and entrepreneurs? Email her at malavika@yourstory.com