Allison Palmer, GLAAD's former Vice President of Campaigns and Programs, worked closely with Facebook as the social networking site prepared to greatly expand users' gender identity options. This week, she reflected on the significance of this development in an op-ed for The Advocate's website. In the piece, entitled "Making Facebook's 'About Me' About Me," Allison writes:
By making this change, Facebook — the largest social platform in the world, with more than 1.2 billion users worldwide — is setting a standard for other tech companies and platforms that offer personal profiles. Users of OKCupid have called for expanded gender options, and Google+ publicly responded to users' requests and introduced customizable privacy of its gender profile field. Other companies can use Facebook's new feature as a model to implement on their own platforms.
More broadly, Facebook's new feature signals a cultural shift and an increase in visibility of transgender people. Today we see more transgender people setting the terms to talk about their own lives in the media, including Laverne Cox, the break out star of Orange Is The New Black, writers Janet Mock, and Jennifer Finney Boylan, as well as athletes Kye Allums and Fallon Fox.
Facebook's change is one step toward removing obstacles to transgender and gender nonconforming people's safety and ability to participate fully in their lives. With more people able to accurately identify themselves on social media platforms like Facebook, more of us will find the space to live authentically to who we really are.