Facebook has added some new choices for its more than 159 million users in the U.S.. No, the choices do have to do with the advertisements that users will see, or their newsfeed, the social media giant has added approximately 50 different terms people can use to identify their gender as well as three preferred pronoun choices: him, her or them.
“There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world,” said Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, who worked on the project and is herself undergoing gender transformation, from male to female. On Thursday, Harrison changed her Facebook identity from Female to TransWoman.
“All too often transgender people like myself and other gender nonconforming people are given this binary option, do you want to be male or female? What is your gender? And it’s kind of disheartening because none of those let us tell others who we really are,” she said. “This really changes that, and for the first time I get to go to the site and specify to all the people I know what my gender is.”
Facebook, which has 1.15 billion active monthly users around the world, also allows them to keep their gender identity private and will continue to do so.
“We applaud Facebook for making it possible for people to be their authentic selves online,” said Masen Davis, executive director of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center .
According to representatives from Facebook the change did not happen overnight. The company consulted with a variety of LGBT activists and organizations before the recent roll-out. And, while only available in the U.S. right now, the plan is to take the initiative worldwide.
“Really, there was no debate within Facebook about the social implications at all,” said Alex Schultz, director of growth. “It was simple: Not allowing people to express something so fundamental is not really cool so we did something. Hopefully a more open and connected world will, by extension, make this a more understanding and tolerant world.”
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