Facebook now has a fill-in-the-blank gender option

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Credit: Background: Shutterstock/Longquattro & Zuckerberg: Andrew Feinberg/Flickr

Facebook has taken another step towards embracing gender diversity. Along with its 58 gender options, users can now write in their own answers. The AP reports that Facebook released the news with the statement, “Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own.”

Although the development is a positive one, why did it take so long? Facebook could have added the fill in the blank option exactly one year ago, when it first expanded its gender options. At that point it went from offering users just “male” and “female” to a host of other choices like queer, trans, and intersex. The company also allowed people to start choosing the pronoun they wish to be used — he, she, or they.

Facebook has had a turbulent year with gender identity issues. When it started deleting profiles with fake names in September, it eliminated many drag queen profiles and profiles of people who identify by different terms their given birth name. As a result, Facebook singlehandedly empowered newcomer Ello to rise to prominence — those unhappy with Facebook’s actions moved there. Facebook quickly backtracked and its Chief Product Office Chris Cox released a public apology about what had happened.

With today’s news about an added fill-in-the-blank option, it appears Facebook has continued to research and learn about gender diversity. The news comes the same week we saw a sneak peak of Apple’s new diverse emojis representing people of different ethnicities, another mostly positive development that should’ve happened a long time ago.

3 Comments

Satoshi Kamasutra

Why did it take a year? Because when you operate at the scale that facebook does, even seemingly trivial changes can be inordinately complex and can have catastrophic consequences if they’re not carefully planned and tested. I suspect that a change like this required changes across dozens, if not hundreds, of downstream systems, all of which needed to be carefully coordinated.

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