Facebook and Gender Identity

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The differences between the terms sex and gender have become more refined in U.S. society over the past decade, and increasingly, there have been acknowledgements of gender options beyond male and female. Anthropologist Elizabeth P. Challinor writes, “We could say that sex refers to the biological body and that gender refers to cultural interpretations of biological differences which produce differentiated social roles and attributes for the sexes,” and continues, “I think that part of the difficulty is the presumption that cultural constructions of biological difference still have to fall under two categories: male or female.” The World Health Organization defines “sex” and “gender” similarly and further says on their website that, “Aspects of sex will not vary substantially between different human societies, while aspects of gender may vary greatly.”

Facebook personal profiles include information that piece together the identity of the Facebook user. You can find information on what movies they watch or on a more fundamental level what gender they are. Facebook users no longer have to choose the option that corresponds to the sex they were born with, or choose to leave this part of their identity blank. As of February 13, 2014, users can now choose from over 50 options to describe their personal gender. You can also now choose what pronoun Facebook will refer to you publicly, female (her), male (him), or neutral (them). GLAAD announced their involvement with the development of this feature and currently it is only available to users who use Facebook in English. The president of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, says, “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.” This new Facebook development may even mean that the term LGBT will be too limiting in the future.

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2 thoughts on “Facebook and Gender Identity

  1. I wonder how Facebook’s acknowledgement of non-binary genders will affect the general public’s perception of people who identify as neither male or female. By allowing a gender neutral pronoun option, Facebook is publicly recognizing the fact that some people do not identify as male or female. This could, in turn, influence other Facebook users to accept the concept of non-binary gender.

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