RainbowFBCampus650Facebook announced that its users now have the ability to specify custom genders, such as transgender, androgynous, and genderqueer, and they can also specify whether to publicly be referred to as male (he/his), female (she/her), or neutral (they/their).

The social network also added controls for users to determine who sees their custom gender designations. The new features are initially available to U.S. English users.

Facebook said in a post on the Facebook Diversity page announcing the new custom gender feature:

When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just “male” or female.” So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook.

We collaborated with our Network of Support, a group of leading LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) advocacy organizations, to offer an extensive list of gender identities that many people use to describe themselves. Moreover, people who select a custom gender will now have the ability to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly — male (he/his), female (she/her), or neutral (they/their).

We also have added the ability for people to control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender. We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.

Facebook also updated its Help Center, adding information on how to use the new feature:

Editing Info

To edit your basic personal info (ex: gender, contact info, relationships, work and education):

Go to your Timeline (which we sometimes refer to as your profile).

Click Update Info at the bottom of your cover photo.

Click Edit in the top right of the section you’d like to change.

Enter your new info and click Save.

Selecting an Audience

While editing each section, you’ll see an audience selector next to most pieces of info. Select an audience to choose who you share this info with.

Custom Gender

If you set your gender to Custom and select one or more genders, you can also select an audience for your custom gender. In addition to your custom gender, you’ll choose a Preferred Pronoun. The preferred pronoun you select is public.

Note: Your email address has additional settings.

EditAbout

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation helped Facebook develop the custom gender feature, and GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in a press release:

This new feature is a step forward in recognizing transgender people and allows them to tell their authentic story in their own words. Once again, Facebook is on the forefront of ensuring that the platform is safe and accessible to all of its LGBT users.

Former GLAAD Vice President of Campaigns and Programs Allison Palmer, who worked on the initiative with staff from the organization and the social network, added:

Facebook users from across the country have been asking for the ability to reflect their gender accurately, and today Facebook showed that it has been listening. Facebook’s new gender options will make a difference to many transgender and gender nonconforming users, who are now empowered to accurately describe their own identities on the platform.

GLAAD shared the following statistics from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality:

  • 90 percent of transgender and gender-nonconforming people report harassment, discrimination, and mistreatment on the job.
  • 41 percent of transgender people reported attempting suicide, compared with 1.6 percent of the general population.

GLAAD also shared, via the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network:

  • 42 percent of LGBT youth reported being harassed or bullied online, three times more than non-LGBT youth. 27 percent reported feeling unsafe online.
  • 26 percent of LGBT youth said they had been bullied online specifically because of their sexual orientation or gender expression in the past year.

Abbe Land, executive director and CEO of The Trevor Project, which operates crisis-intervention and suicide-prevention services for LGBTQ youth nationwide, issued the following reaction to Facebook’s introduction of custom genders:

Safely being out online and safe expression of one’s gender identity are among the top areas of concern for youth who reach out to us. As a member of Facebook’s Network of Support since 2010, The Trevor Project is very excited about the social network’s move to allow users to express their true gender in a safe way. Studies show that the stronger a person’s support structure, the more likely they are to reach out for help when they need it. Until today, the options for youth to expand their social support network online were limited. For many LGBTQ (the Q stands for questioning) youth, The Trevor Project’s social network, TrevorSpace, has been their only option for expressing their true gender identity when online. Facebook’s newly expanded gender identity policy means youth can choose how to safely expand their support structures and safety nets through social media.

Readers: What was your reaction to Facebook’s introduction of custom genders?