Facebook Gives Users a Gender Education


Jessica Parenti

As many may already know, Facebook has recently added 51 additional gender identity options rather than keeping their sex-based (male and female) options to classify a user’s gender. This new addition has left some confused, asking “What is there besides male and female?”

Gender is a complex concept contrary to the views of a primarily Cisgender (a person who has the gender identity commonly affiliated with their biological sex) ruled community. Many never question things like gender although it is a very significant part of ourselves. There are infinite ways for individuals to experience their gender, bodies and minds.

Sure enough, there is much uncertainty today when it comes to gender talk, so it’s important to learn about it. For instance, there is a very big difference between the words “sex” and “gender”.

A person’s sex represents the biological aspect—often discussed in terms of male or female. While male and female are conventional ways to describe a person’s sex, they may not apply to all and are insufficient in understanding the sex-based characteristics of all people.

Gender is a more personal aspect—an individual awareness of one’s own identity. Gender can refer to traits being feminine, masculine, both, or neither. Gender is not like sex considering it is more along the lines of being a man or woman rather than, with sex, male or female.

Of course, binary gender/sex systems like this are practically useless in trying to describe the genders of all people since everyone is different, which is especially why the Facebook gender options are central for breaking away from incorrect societal norms.

Facebook has always offered numerous ways to interact, connect and share with friends, but never like this. Gender identity is a very delicate, complex subject, which is why it is so important that Facebook now gives people the option to inform others about their gender, rather than just have them be based on physical characteristics. It is uncomfortable and hurtful to be incorrectly gender perceived or labeled.

Of course, individuals can choose to not share their genders publicly since they can be put at risk of rejection or danger from others that do not understand. There is also an “other” gender option available for those who do not want to put a label on their gender and want to be free from describing their gender.

Now on Facebook, for example, an individual can—along with choosing their gender identity—choose their preferred pronoun (he/she/they) so that their Facebook friends will know whether to wish him, her, or them a happy birthday without misperception.

The pronoun options are especially helpful for individuals with interchangeable pronouns such as Gender Fluid individuals, whose genders fluctuate and are not confined to one specific gender set. For example, someone who is Gender Fluid may consider themselves a woman one day, and a man another day.

While surely Facebook’s new gender terms cannot possibly begin to capture all of the shades of gender or how an individual classifies themselves, it is a start.