Gender Options as Defined by Your FBook Profile (duh)

Alright Facebook, I’ll bite. What’s up with the 50-plus new custom gender options?

Full statement here.
Full statement here.

Now, yet again, plenty of people are already being critical of this move…

hermoineeyeroll

and I have to say I think that’s an unproductive first reaction. The fact that they are dealing with this at all is stellar. And they put together quite a list! Here is the full list as assembled by Slate, 56 options:

  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Cis
  • Cisgender
  • Cis Female
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Cisgender Female
  • Cisgender Male
  • Cisgender Man
  • Cisgender Woman
  • Female to Male
  • FTM
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Intersex
  • Male to Female
  • MTF
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Non-binary
  • Other
  • Pangender
  • Trans
  • Trans*
  • Trans Female
  • Trans* Female
  • Trans Male
  • Trans* Male
  • Trans Man
  • Trans* Man
  • Trans Person
  • Trans* Person
  • Trans Woman
  • Trans* Woman
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Two-Spirit

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I know, that list is cray! But don’t fret if you don’t know all those terms off the top of your head. Here is a helpful glossary from the Daily Beast! This list is pretty thorough, and it certainly proves that this did their homework, so brownie points for research and execution!

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I fully support including Cis options, even though it’s not very common to self-identify as Cis. I kind of think self identifying that way is a nice way to show that you are an ally, but that’s just me thinking out loud. I think my personal favorite choice is two spirit, just because it sounds so lovely. My other favorite new function is the select your own pronoun option. The use of incorrect pronouns can be a very personally hurtful experience for some folks, and in most public spaces we generally don’t engage in pronoun check-ins (where you ask a person which pronouns they wish to be referred to by.) Being referred to as ‘him’ when you feel you are a ‘her’ or a ‘they’ or a ‘zhe’ (an example of gender neutral pronouns, which are not yet an option) is super awkward and isolating, and I applaud this functional link (which isn’t immediately apparent to folks even if they are open minded and respectful of fluidity.) That’s a big win!

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I don’t have it in me to criticize what I think is an important first step. Instead I will make my own wish list of what I’d like to see them do in the future with these options. Some people think gender options should be removed altogether, but I’m not convinced. I think defining gender for oneself is the most important and empowering tool, and to that end I would love to be able to type in whatever I want into the custom field (I tried yesterday to change my gender identity to ‘dope chick’, but it didn’t take.) It would also be cool is the Male/Female options weren’t removed from all the other options as if they were ‘normal’ and the others ‘other’.

other-ing, so lame.
other-ing, so lame.

Another tricky point is that these options are generally used by Facebook to shape advertising content. I think that sucks, for all sorts of reasons that run from personal privacy to gender assumptions to ad-overload in general. I don’t want my personal information being used without my knowledge as a marketing resource (and I know I’m shit out of luck with that at this point, but it’s still not cute.) And also I hate that my ads are all about fashion and babies, neither of which I focus any part of my life on at this time. And advertising is a classic chicken and egg question. Do they assign certain ads to women because we really do want/need all this shit, or do we want/need it because we are sold a bullshit view of ourselves and our place in the world by ads? (Hint: The answer is both.) So I think that until the gender options are ‘no string’s attached’, a pure choice of self-expression not linked to ad content selection, none of us will truly be free to be our ‘true, authentic selves’. At least not on our Facebook profile. But maybe that’s not even the point…

probably won't find your 'true self' in your online profile... #justsayin
probably won’t find your ‘true self’ in your online profile… #justsayin

I can’t wait for the moment when this crap doesn’t matter. As this move highlights, gender identity is sewn into how we talk about, refer to, categorize and relate to other people in lots of complicated ways. It defines romantic relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife), familiar relationships (mother/father, aunt/uncle), and it sets the tone for how we interact with other people. We make assumptions about their personalities and interests, and we make hundreds of those assumptions in a split second. But the binary system is so reductive and simple, it doesn’t begin to cover the complexities and grey areas that most humans exist with and within. Online interactions are not going away, and blending our real-world and online identities will only get harder as those identities continue to overlap and morph. A huge company like Facebook paving the way for more inclusion and fluidity is phenoms. Giving consumers the option to define their gender and pronoun choices and privacy options in their way and on their own terms is the ultimate goal, and I do believe this is a major victory towards that end.

firststep

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