Follow breaking news @lgbtqnation

Facebook adding new gender options, preferred pronoun choices for users

Thursday, February 13, 2014
Noah Berger, APFacebook software engineer Brielle Harrison demonstrates expanded options for gender identification at her company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. Harrison, who helped engineer the project, plans to switch her identifier to "Trans Woman."

Noah Berger, APFacebook software engineer Brielle Harrison demonstrates expanded options for gender identification at her company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. Harrison, who helped engineer the project, plans to switch her identifier to “Trans Woman.”

MENLO PARK, Calif. — You don’t have to identify as male or female on Facebook anymore. The social media giant is adding a customizable option with about 50 different terms people can use to identify their gender as well as three preferred pronoun choices: him, her or them.

Facebook said the changes, shared with The Associated Press before the launch on Thursday, initially cover the company’s 159 million monthly users in the U.S. and are aimed at giving people more choices in how they describe themselves, such as androgynous, bi-gender, intersex, gender fluid or transsexual.

“There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world,” said Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, who worked on the project and is herself undergoing gender transformation, from male to female. On Thursday, while watchdogging the software for any problems, she said she was also changing her Facebook identity from Female to TransWoman.

“All too often transgender people like myself and other gender nonconforming people are given this binary option, do you want to be male or female? What is your gender? And it’s kind of disheartening because none of those let us tell others who we really are,” she said. “This really changes that, and for the first time I get to go to the site and specify to all the people I know what my gender is.”

Facebook, which has 1.15 billion active monthly users around the world, also allows them to keep their gender identity private and will continue to do so.

The change to the gender selection option is seen as a major step toward acceptance for people who don’t self-identify as male or female, but the high-profile development seemed senseless to those who believe in two genders, no more.

Masen Davis, executive director of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, said it may be hard for some people to understand the importance of having the ability to select from multiple genders online. But he said many transgender people will be thrilled with the change.

“We applaud Facebook for making it possible for people to be their authentic selves online,” he said.

In the past decade, the transgender movement has become much more organized and outspoken, demanding the kind of civil rights and respect already sought by gay activists. During this time, the transgender umbrella has been growing well beyond transsexuals to encompass a wide variety of gender identities.

The move by Facebook came after years of lobbying from users, some who started Facebook pages to petition for the change. Google+ offers male, female and “other” as choices, but transgender advocates said Facebook’s many specific options puts the platform well ahead of any other online community. About 1 percent of Google+ users identify as other.

The idea of expanding gender choices percolated at Facebook for about a year and started to come to fruition during an in-house brainstorming four months ago, project manager Lexi Ross said.

Transgender activist Nori Herras-Castaneda, a spokeswoman for the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose, said her community has been waiting for this to happen for a long time.

“We always talk about how gender is a spectrum,” she said. “I can see a lot of people being extremely happy about this.”

At this point, Facebook targets advertising according to male or female genders. For those who change to something neutral, ads will be targeted based on the pronoun they select for themselves. Unlike getting engaged or married, changing gender is not registered as a “life event” on the site and won’t post on timelines. Therefore, Facebook said advertisers cannot target ads to those who declare themselves transgender or recently changed their gender.

Users also can separately indicate whether they want to be referred to as he, she or they.

Facebook came up with its range of terms after consulting with leading gay and transgender activists, and the company plans to continue working with them. Facebook started the options in the U.S. and plans to take it global after working with activists abroad to come up with terms appropriate in other countries.

Herras-Castaneda said she did expect some anger.

“Any time the transgender community makes advances, there is backlash, and this is a very big advance, so yes, we’ll face some problems, no doubt,” she said.

At Facebook, staffers said the expanded options were never questioned, from CEO Mark Zuckerberg on down.

“Really, there was no debate within Facebook about the social implications at all,” said Alex Schultz, director of growth. “It was simple: Not allowing people to express something so fundamental is not really cool so we did something. Hopefully a more open and connected world will, by extension, make this a more understanding and tolerant world.”

© 2014, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Share this article with your friends and followers:

Archives: , , ,

Filed under: LGBTQ Life, [ Editor's Picks ], [ Trending ]

145 more reader comments:

  1. I just changed mine. It was very easy to do.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:14pm
  2. And it only took them ten years!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:16pm
  3. Yaaay

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:16pm
  4. R u fucking kidddddinnnnng me?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:16pm
  5. That’s a can of worms to be opening in a social network.

    On one hand, people can identify as who they are, which is good for those who wish to do so. On the other hand, this provides bigots with a way to more readily identify those of the LGBT community, and thereby target them for harassment.

    We’ll see how this works.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:17pm
  6. I thought that too as I was changing mine. Unfortunately, you can't please everyone. Fortunately, I don't have to care about who I please but myself :).

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:19pm
  7. That's true. My only concern is how easy this makes it for the bigots to target people. Aside from that, I say be out and proud. :D

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:21pm
  8. You got a point. But than again. Bigots could change their interest and make themselves look like their gay/bi just to harass gay/bi people. People will always be assholes and abuse things. Plus, if they're changing their gender just to harass someone. Than that really shows how stupid they are. Cause who's gonna even look at their gender expect for family and friends.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 11:04pm
  9. The profile automatically defaults to Everybody, not Friends/Family. I just learned that today.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 11:16pm
  10. Kate Danielson

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:17pm
  11. im sure after reading this someone will come up with”this will be the downfall of facebook” LOL

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:17pm
  12. I thought the downfall would be caused by those duckface profile pics. :p lol

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:20pm
  13. Just changed mine appropriately, feeling relieved :).

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:18pm
  14. SOrry to sound like a technically impaired prawn, but where do I change it? :3

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:21pm
  15. Go to your Basic Info and there's a new link that says 'Edit Gender' :).

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:22pm
  16. Tak Marcina!

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:24pm
  17. Of course :)

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:28pm
  18. “There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world” I want anybody who is thinking of commenting “This is stupid and pointless” to reread that first sentence 1000000 times.

    Just because something does not immediately concern you, it does not mean it is not important to anybody. Not everything is about you. You should be thankful your gender identity is so easy to comprehend that Facebook did not previously assume you did not exist.

    That being said, this is a great first step, as a lot of friends of mine have had complaints about how to avoid misgendering themselves for the sake of having a Facebook to contact people with.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:18pm
  19. *applauds you*

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:34pm
  20. Brainless people will say that, after all, if they don't don't have a brain to think with, what else can they say.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:38pm
  21. U GO GIRL!? I think everyone shud know this :)

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:02pm
  22. Look you're either male or female why go through loads of physical adjustments to have the opposite physical gender than which you were assigned at birth only to say that you are now transgender rather than simply male or female?? I just don't get it!

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6:36am
  23. If you don't get it you shouldn't talk as though you do. Just google "gender binary" or even "transgender" and save yourself because you have no idea how ignorant you sound. Be thankful your body matches up with your head and do some research before you open your mouth or go near a keyboard.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6:37am
  24. I'm entitled to my opinion, I haven't told you to keep your mouth shut or keep away from your keyboard so show me the same respect I am TRYING to show you.!

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 8:09am
  25. Beautiful

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:18pm
  26. That’s really great! I love how Facebook is so diverse and liberal… :D

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:19pm
  27. Sarah Scissorhands

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:19pm
  28. “1 Hacker Way”? wtf? Lol

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:20pm
  29. Yay!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:20pm
  30. I love it! It doesn’t affect me, but I know that this is important for many people. Way to go Facebook!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:20pm
  31. @Christina, thumb up!

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:23am
  32. That’s awesome :)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:20pm
  33. Way too darn personal now

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:21pm
  34. Your personal information is way too darn personal. I don't even know what that means.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:29pm
  35. Seriously… Facebook is like the iphone. Makes a tiny minuscule unimportant twerk to their product and everyone goes nuts for it and cheers.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:21pm
  36. But it's NOT unimportant to some people. This isn't a new camera that lets you "see where peoples faces are even though you could see already" This is peoples identity and in some cases it can be detrimental to peoples well being to CONSTANTLY have to say they are male or female. I'm genderfluid, and when I see "HE likes this" on a female day, I get down about it.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:50pm
  37. Yay for Facebook!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:21pm
  38. NICE!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:21pm
  39. I think it’s great.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:22pm
  40. This is inspiring to read!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:22pm
  41. Yay lol :-D

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:22pm
  42. YAY!!! It’s about time!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:22pm
  43. If bigots start the hating just turn them in to Facebook they can start their own social website closeminded.com

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:23pm
  44. Finally!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:24pm
  45. Yay! Finally!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:24pm
  46. Maybe I’ll finally get people to address me properly! Is “Your Majesty” really so hard to say?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:25pm
  47. apparently, not rolled out globally, only available in the US?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:25pm
  48. My local new station just posted this it saddens me how horrible people can be

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:27pm
  49. Awesome!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:27pm
  50. Kris Senior for your page :)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:27pm
  51. I’d like to be known as shit, he/she/it. Seeing I am made up of all sorts of bacteria and things :P

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:27pm
  52. :’)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:29pm
  53. About bloody time!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:30pm
  54. Very cool. And if the U.S has it it’s probably just to test it and make sure it works properly.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:30pm
  55. Whatever

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:32pm
  56. Shane Eli Luster ;)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:33pm
  57. Why?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:36pm
  58. because for many people it matters a great deal.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:36pm
  59. I'm asking why. If people need this, than its a good thing. What I want to know is why do they want it.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:50pm
  60. Mo Nichols

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:36pm
  61. Not that I would change mine but it dose not look available to the UK yet!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:39pm
  62. Neat

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:40pm
  63. Ok but I thought that people born genetically male but change to female ARE FEMALE and vice versa. OY

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:42pm
  64. Not everybody fit into that. Some people are bi-gender, genderqueer, etc.

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:20pm
  65. Ah ok. Time to brush up on my vocabulary LOL

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:47pm
  66. A lot of trans men and trans women still like to identify as TRANS women and TRANS men and not just men and women. Yes, at the end of the day a man is a man and a woman is a woman but a lot of them like to be open and honest about it. Carmen Carrera for example. She makes it very well known she's a beautiful TRANS woman. So, I see your point but just pointing it out that a lot of them like to distinguish that they're trans versus cis. I think it's a pride thing, which, I mean good on them. It's their choice to identify however they please and I support that :)

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:41am
  67. SWEET!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:42pm
  68. Awesome! Can I be referred to as “your Highness”?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:42pm
  69. Excellent, I would like to be called… “Sire or Majesty!”

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:42pm
  70. It doesn’t impact me personally, but, HURRAY for equality and for one more step towards a brighter tomorow.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:45pm
  71. Can we have this feature for the ‘Interested In’ section?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:45pm
  72. Right? I check men and women which makes people automatically assume I'm bisexual when I'm not. Pansexual and bisexual are two very different things and I'd like to identify with my ACTUAL sexuality. I mean, I'm happy about the gender thing but I think they really could have gone farther with it.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:37am
  73. I'm asexual. There's no 'neither' option. All I can do is leave both unchecked and people assume I'm hetero and didn't bother to click anything.

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:38am
  74. But there are people still in between during the process. Plus even if they’ve successfully become their correct gender they’ll eventually have to tell their partners. This, I’m sure, will help quite a bit.

    I also think this is just an absurdly amazing step in the transgender movement. I’m not transgender myself, but I love every member of the LGBT family and I love seeing any section of our family progress! First big step for us!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:46pm
  75. AWESOME! :D

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:48pm
  76. It’s the start of a beautiful beginning. :)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:53pm
  77. *quickly changes to Agender*

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:54pm
  78. I sure hope this is true. It’s a big step for my friends who don’t necessarily identify with “traditional” genders.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:54pm
  79. It’s a proud moment, thank you to FB for stepping up to the plate and delivering!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:56pm
  80. Very cool. Now if only my FB stock would soar.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:59pm
  81. Krystal look!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:00pm
  82. Awesome

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:00pm
  83. WAY TO GO FACEBOOK!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:01pm
  84. How about the “HUMAN” option……

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:04pm
  85. this means alot to me for one, i am glad that face book is taking steps to honor all of us in the lbgt community :) i did have to check it out tho and see if it was true and was shocked to see that it was :)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:16pm
  86. Cool :-)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:18pm
  87. Super

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:18pm
  88. I guess people got fed up with “Hey you!”

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:19pm
  89. Reny CT

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:20pm
  90. Starla Knight-DeVine check it out!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:27pm
  91. very cool!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:29pm
  92. Coolness

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:33pm
  93. Fuck this shit. I think Howard will agree.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:39pm
  94. Facebook gender options not yet available in India. :/ :/ :/

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:41pm
  95. Nice option, diversity

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:43pm
  96. it wont be enough its never enough for Americans…

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:46pm
  97. whats next

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:47pm
  98. I don’t think that’s needed. I mean a trans-woman is a woman for me..

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:48pm
  99. That's awesome and how it should be but a lot of trans women still prefer to identify as TRANS women and not just "women" implying they may be cisgender. I think it's a pride and honesty thing and I totally respect that. But you're right, a woman is a woman regardless of if she started that way or not!

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:42am
  100. Is anyone else excited as you would be if you were stranded on an island and came across a 10 foot bowl of your favorite ice cream?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:55pm
  101. Finally, Facebook ((( <3 ))) :) One my step on the path towards equality :) <3

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:55pm
  102. About freakin’ time…

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:58pm
  103. Very nice.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:08pm
  104. Hopefully next they will add an option for people in plural relationships (more than one partner)

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:10pm
  105. 3 capital likeys

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:16pm
  106. Fantastic! Where are they implementing this?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:20pm
  107. Nice i like it

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:25pm
  108. NICEEEEEEE

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:46pm
  109. This is the only good news I’ve heard all day

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:00pm
  110. Won’t let you change it if you’re under 18.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:08pm
  111. Cameron Morgan

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:32pm
  112. I fear it will cause hate mangers who troll the boards to identify and show their hatred alas we will see the impact when implemented my suggestion is only allow friends to view your profile

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:43pm
  113. Terrance Huff is going to be SO EXCITED!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:47pm
  114. I just saw this, it’s great and a sign that facebook is moving with the times. I’m cis but still very supportive of others with alternative identities (As it should be).

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:49pm
  115. Not sure how I feel about this. I just want to be known as a women. Still if it turns out there are a millions of us maybe people would get over it.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:59pm
  116. I believe that it is up to you and how you want to show the world who you are. If you want to just put 'Woman' or 'Female' because that is what you feel, then go for it, if you want to put anything else, that is your decision also :).

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6:41am
  117. Could we please have some more options for relationships please!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:08pm
  118. If you want to be known as a woman, then you can choose that option. It’s about choosing the words that best represent YOUR identity.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:32pm
  119. That’s pretty awesome. Even tho I’m never gonna use it. It’s nice to see that people now have that option. :D

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:56pm
  120. Alexander Stone, Kelly Moore

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 11:00pm
  121. Changed mine earlier today!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 11:01pm
  122. Facebook Jesus says thats gay…

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 11:51pm
  123. Awesome!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:01am
  124. Look at my profile I’ve already updated mine. Now I can be better identified. Thank you Facebook.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:16am
  125. Why aren’t “women” or “man” an option? It says gender and then gives “male” “female”. To me Male/Female is sex , man/woman is gender. I want to be known by “Woman” not “cis woman” not “trans woman” , just “woman”.
    Just a thought , they would be simple ones add

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:41am
  126. Changed mine today, too. :)

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:42am
  127. YES FINALLY

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:47am
  128. when is this coming to Canada?

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 12:55am
  129. Ahhh that’s really amazing !

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 1:22am
  130. I changed mine and it feels so great to have it as transgender female

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:45am
  131. Hell yeah! Just switched over to genderqueer, which is more appropriate for me…

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:09am
  132. Love love love it! I hate being strictly “female” online – yay for better expression of oneself!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5:39am
  133. Yeah, I’m gonna joke about it a lot, but I do think it’s the right thing to do. I kinda wish they’d do the same thing with sexual orientations, though.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 5:59am
  134. <3 IT!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6:31am
  135. Been done as soon as I read it!

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6:32am
  136. So what would I put in?????? I don’t know what I would call myself

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6:52am
  137. about goddamn time

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 6:57am
  138. Doesn’t work on my tablet

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 7:47am
  139. Wait this was legit? Wow. That’s quite progressive of you, Facebook.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 8:04am
  140. Kira Franssen
    Yes indeed!!! Truly ahmazing thank you facebook :)

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 9:14am
  141. Why not just remove the gender boxes all together? No matter how many options FB makes there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t fit into any of the categories. I find the whole “I’m this sex interested in that sex” a bit unnecessary.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 9:15am
  142. Erm. “Trans Person”?

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 10:35am
  143. Just in case you still can't figure out what you are?

    Replied on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 10:36am
  144. INALLY!!! I LOVE IT WHEN YOU CALL ME BIG POPPA!! (in my Biggie Smalls voice)

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 11:17am
  145. I am all for anyone marrying. But your either: married, single, taken, in an open relationship, or it’s complicated.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:17pm