The company revealed yesterday that it will no longer define genders via the drop-down list that appeared whenever someone made or updated their Facebook profile information.
Instead, the service will now allow users to input whatever gender they like, and to choose which pronoun is used in automated messages generated during a birthday or other event.
Facebook isn’t the only company recognizing that some people don’t identify as either “male” or “female.” Google+ rolled out a similar name-your-own-gender update December.
This might seem like a small change to the majority of Facebook users. Most people are still encouraged from birth to identify with the gender binary, after all, so this is unlikely to affect them.
But the options these services present are a welcome development, giving people more control over how they choose to identify themselves.
So, if Facebook wants people to feel comfortable on its service, it needs to introduce even more features like this which allow its users, not a drop-down menu, to define who they are.
This feature is a step in the right direction. Now if only the company would stop enforcing its discriminatory “real name” policy.
[illustration by Hallie Bateman]