Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tara's Fourth Blog Post: Gender Identity on Facebook

I read an article on Thursday on Cosmopolitan regarding Facebook's new announcements for gender identity options on one's profile. 

Last year, the site provided a list of 50 new gender options including terms like "transgender," "genderqueer," and "gender questioning" in order to expand choices for those who felt like their options for disclosing their gender identity were limited.

Despite this effort, many still believed that they could not adequately confirm their gender identity. So on Thursday, Facebook made a "Custom/Fill in the Blank" option for the Gender section in addition to the settings of declaring which pronoun and level of privacy users prefer. In their post, they said:
 "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."
This is most definitely an example of presenting one's identity online. The fact that a major social networking conglomerate like Facebook is allowing individuals to classify their own gender identity is a promising step for gender acceptance on-and offline.

While this may only be a small advancement on one site, this opportunity to freely express oneself by choosing which pronoun or term one prefers may also help facilitate a dialogue off the page, like Mary L. Gray's discussion of the power of media and online camaraderie influencing individuals in her essay "Negotiating Identities/Queering Desires: Coming Out Online and the Remediation of the Coming-Out Story."

However, there limitations to the new addition to the site, as the custom gender option is only available to Facebook members who use the site in US English. Also, users who commented on the post asked:
"When are you going to fix it so that everything else on the site (relationship/interested in/family connections) doesn't only have male and female options?"
Thus, full inclusion on the site is still to be determined.

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