Facebook has always pushed users to reveal their true identities on the service, and on Thursday, it took that commitment to a new level.
The social network now allows users to select a “custom gender” for their profiles, meaning users who do not identify as male or female can select a neutral gender identity.
Until Thursday, users could only select their gender as female (“she” and “her”), or male (“he” and “his”). Now, users in the United States can choose gender neutral (“they” or “their”).
“While to many this change may not mean much, for those it affects it means a great deal,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email. “We see this as one more way we can make Facebook a place where people can express their authentic identity.”
When a male user celebrates a birthday, friends may be alerted with a message that reads, “Write on Matt’s wall for HIS birthday.” If a user elects to identify as gender neutral, the Facebook message would change to, “Write on Matt’s wall for THEIR birthday.”
Facebook announced the change on the company’s Diversity page, and says that it worked with “a group of leading LGBT advocacy organizations” to compile a list of gender options. Users can change their gender settings by clicking “About” and selecting the edit icon in the upper-right hand corner of the “Basic Information” tab.
There, users can set their genders to “Custom” and then select from a long list of specific gender options. New option include transgender, bigender, cis, and gender questioning, among many others. (Cis, or cisgender, refers to those who identify as the same gender that they were assigned at birth.)
It’s unclear how many Facebook users self-identify as gender neutral, and a spokesperson did not provide numbers.