In February Facebook presented its 1.23 billion members with “a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity.” In other words, for the user-profile gender question, a person is not limited to the binary “male” and “female” choices. Facebook worked with gay and transgender advocacy organizations to come up with a customizable category of more than 50 gender identifiers, from which a user can select up to 10. Users can control how widely their choices are viewed. The options include “transgender,” “intersex,” and “fluid,” among others (see the Slate article for a glossary of terms).
Reactions to the social-networking giant’s move have been mixed. Among the estimated 700,000-plus transgender individuals living in the United States, for whom the various gender distinctions are most relevant, many are glad to have their identities recognized in this way. Mental health professionals in favor say it gives people who feel marginalized a voice. Some psychologists consider the step positive because it may help individuals feel less isolated. (It should be noted that the most recent edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-V, no longer includes “gender identity disorder.”) Others point out that the pressure to choose a public identity among such an array of choices may be confusing or even harmful to someone struggling privately with the issue.
Cynical responses focus on Facebook’s underlying motive, which may be to further customize its targeted advertising. If fairness is the issue, critics say, why not just remove gender from FB profiles altogether? Other, weightier criticisms have been raised—for example, by feminists who see the focus on transgender as undermining attention to the more important issue of social gendering; and by advocates of traditional morality who see this development as based on a misguided or flawed understanding of human nature.
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- In New Profile Feature, Facebook Offers Choices for Gender Identity
This article briefly explains the new change in Facebook’s profile options regarding gender.
(Source: Reuters, February 13, 2014)
- Confused by All the New Facebook Genders? Here’s What They Mean.
This article presents definitions for the many shades of gender that Facebook has introduced .
(Source: Slate.com, February 21, 2014)
- Facebook’s Gender Labeling Revolution
This article is a generally positive response to the new gender options for Facebook users.
(Source: Time.com, February 19, 2014)
- Facebook Should Remove All Gender Options Instead
Pointing to the likely motive—targeted marketing—driving Facebook’s introduction of 50+ gender options, this article suggests FB should opt out of the gender profiling business.
(Source: Guardian, February 16, 2014)
- What Do We Mean by “Sex” and “Gender”?
This webpage from the WHO presents definitions of and distinctions between sex and gender.
(Source: World Health Organization; accessed March 17, 2014)
- Facebook’s Shift on Gender Draws Catholic Criticism
This article presents some of the criticisms that greeted Facebook’s new profile options for gender.
(Source: National Catholic Register, February 26, 2014)