After a successful trial in the America, now facebook users in the United Kingdom can chose from 70 different gender options in their facebook profile including asexual, intersex, cisgender and two-spirit etc. Before these changes were made, only the option of male and female were available for the gender tab in facebook profiles. Facebook has also changed its settings in such way that users can now chose a neutral pronoun, which means that how they like to be referred such as they, their or them. Facebook first kicked in with these changes in February for their 159 million users in USA.
Facebook stated that these changes in the setting are aimed at enriching people with more choices as how they would like to describe themselves and how they want other people to regard as. E.g. bi gender, intersex, transsexual androgynous etc. Brielle Harrison who is a software engineer in facebook contented that for many people this change is going to mean nothing at all. But interestingly, Harrison is herself going through a transformation from being male to female.
She further said that many transgender people like me and many other gender nonconforming people are empowered with this option of what is your gender. Previously when there were just two options, that were dis-heartening for people like us as we can’t describe our real self.
Simon Milner, who is a Policy Direction of UK, Middle East and Africa at Facebook added to this conversation that when a user comes to facebook in order to connect with other people, organizations and for different causes, what user want is to feel comfortable being a real self. For that a very important part is the selection of gender beyond male and female. This announcement is going to make a significant change in the lives of people living in UK.
Facebook which has around 1.23 billion active monthly users from around the globe also gives option to its user to hide their gender and keep it in private and will continue with this option in future as well. A human rights campaign held last year found that about 10 % of 10,000 people surveyed, who all were gays, lesbian etc stated that they used other in the their gender columns. The preferred pronoun option in facebook will help other third party apps and messages coming from facebook to address the person the way he/she wants. Currently there is no option for the advertisers to target a specific group on the basis of their customized gender settings on facebook.
It is seen as a very major step in the line of acceptance of people for who they want to be, but this development will be deemed as senseless to those who believe in only two genders. Jeff Johnston, who is an analyst at Focus on the family, an organization based in Denver, stated that it is impossible to reject the biological reality of males and females, however we feel sad for those deny their biological sex and they believe they belong to the opposite sex.