Facebook has expanded its options for listing your gender from two (male or female) to 58. The company says that “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.”
Requiring people to list a gender was actually a grammatical rather than societal issue back when the site started. Facebook asked users to identify as male or female so that it could correctly use “his” or “her” when creating a notification, rather than have statements like “John added a new image to their photo album.”
(For me, that’s only a genuine grammatical error where the gender is known. I’m fine with the singular “they” where gender isn’t known, and if anyone disagrees they can take a running jump.)
That binary option irked people who didn’t identify with simple terms such as male or female. After consulting with its Network of Support (made up of LGBT advocacy groups), Facebook is now offering a much wider range of options under the “Custom” heading.
There’s not a single drop-down menu: instead you have to type the term you prefer and check if it comes up through autocomplete. Slate has checked all alphabetical possibilities and reckons on 56 valid terms, ranging from Agender to Two-Spirit.
There’s a wide variety, so if the difference between Androgyne and Androgynous or Cisgender Male and Cisgender Man is important to you, you’ll be in luck.
If you choose a custom gender, you can also set the pronoun to he/his, she/her or they/their.
Facebook has also made it possible to set your custom gender by privacy setting, meaning you control how people see it. For example, you could have Trans Male visible to your friends, but Female visible to everyone else.
If you change your listed gender, Facebook won’t treat it as a life event (meaning there’ll be no automated post about the change) and it won’t make any difference to the ads you see.
The custom gender feature is currently available to users with the US English setting. It is likely to roll out, though it may take some time for Facebook to put together the appropriate terms in other languages.