SparkNotes Blog

The Anti-Binary Code: Facebook Changes Its Gender Options

Many people, and virtually every Disney character ever, identify as male or female. However, there are lots of people that identify as both, neither, something in between, or something else altogether. Facebook recently acknowledged the group of people that don’t identify with one of the common, binary boy or girl categories, by adding a ton (56!) of new designations for people.

Facebook now allows choices such as transgender, cisgender, gender fluid, gender questioning, or neither, among many others. For example, Native Americans and First Nations folk who identify as both male and female can select “Two Spirit” for their profile. Social media overlord Mark Zuckerberg also allows users to choose the pronoun that suits the user best: she or he, they or them.

This is a huge moment for anyone who identifies somewhere along the gender spectrum. It’s common to identify with the sex/parts you were born with—many people with boy parts feel like boys, and many people born with girl parts feel like girls—there are some who feel they’re born with parts that don’t match their brain, or that neither “boy” nor “girl” adequately describes how they feel. It is hard enough to work through this on its own, but it doesn’t help that every flippin’ form on the planet makes you choose one or the other.

Think about filling out the form for your driver’s license (M or F, it asks), going shopping (distinct boys vs. girls sections), even pronouns (“‘They’ is incorrect for a singular pronoun!” insists your English teacher). Also, it brings more visibility to the idea of the gender spectrum, and how the traditional binary system is sometimes inadequate, not to mention old-farty.

To change your gender:

  1. Go to your Timeline (profile page)
  2. Click Update Info (bottom right corner of your cover photo)
  3. Click Edit on top of the section you’d like to change (gender is in Basic Information)
  4. Click Custom (conveniently available after Female and Male)
  5. Start typing how you identify, and the field will populate with options
  6. If your identity doesn’t pop up, suggest it as an edit
  7. Change your pronoun if you’d like – her/she, him/he, them/they
  8. Click Save Changes

Or, if you don’t want to change your gender, then don’t.

Please note: The proper terminology on all this is still developing, so please excuse any explanations that are insensitive—and correct me in the comments!

What do you think about all these new gender options? Confusing? Cool? Both?

(The picture comes from a recent article on the gender portrait series of JJ Levine.)