In its ten year existence, Facebook has already shown us that it is prepared to make changes and amendments that it feels will benefit its member base. Some of those changes have manifested themselves as part of a radical functionality or interface overhaul, while others have been a lot more subtle and have focused on individual settings that are accessible by registered members. In a move that is aimed at affording Facebook members the right to express their true identity, the social network is now offering a custom gender option as part of the process that involves selecting a sex.
As part of the official post to announce the change, Facebook has expressed their belief that members want to use the social network to "connect with people, causes and organizations that you care about". For a lot of users around the world, Facebook is a home away from home. A way of communicating with friends, family, colleagues and loved ones when away. For some, it’s also a way of life, and can be a sanctuary for those who may struggle with the trials and tribulations that form part of everyday life. The company believes that an integral part of feeling comfortable is the ability to accurately express gender.
The small, but extremely important and notable change, comes after lengthy discussions and collaborations with a group of LGBT advocacy organizations. In addition to being able to select Custom as a gender, users will also be able to select the pronoun that determines who they are referred to throughout various parts the network. Facebook has often been criticized in the past for breaching the privacy of users and offering security on the lighter side of the fence, but in an effort to not make the same mistake again, today’s changes also provide the option of choosing who can and can’t see the Custom gender tag.
The gender based changes will only be available for users in the United States in the immediate future, with Facebook preferring its usual phased rollout that will ultimately see the amendments filtering out to users in additional territories. Today’s changes may be extremely small and accessible to American users for the time being, but they clearly show that Facebook is committed to celebrating diversity and allowing users the right to express who they actually are.