Facebook offers new custom gender field, expands options for transgender users

Custom gender option now allows users to more accurately reflect who they are

Rich Ferraro
Vice President of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8011
ferraro@glaad.org

February 13, 2014

NEW YORK, NY – Today, Facebook announced a custom gender option with additional privacy settings for transgender people. The new feature, which GLAAD helped develop, enables users to select a custom gender option, indicate preferred pronouns and adjust privacy settings for the custom gender field. It will be available to those who use Facebook in U.S. English. 

For more information visit: [glaad blog post with links to Facebook employee's post]

The official Facebook note is available here: https://www.facebook.com/facebookdiversity

"This new feature is a step forward in recognizing transgender people and allows them to tell their authentic story in their own words," said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. "Once again, Facebook is on the forefront of ensuring that the platform is safe and accessible to all of its LGBT users."

Previously, Facebook users were required to select either 'male' or 'female' in the gender identification field. Users now have the option to select "Custom."  Once users select custom, they will have the ability to enter up to 10 identification terms (e.g., transgender, androgynous, genderqueer, etc.) to better express the gender with which they identify.  Users who use the new custom gender options will also have the ability to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly and select which groups of their Facebook friends they feel safe sharing their gender field with.

"Facebook users from across the country have been asking for the ability to reflect their gender accurately, and today Facebook showed they have been listening," said Allison Palmer, GLAAD's former Vice President of Campaigns & Programs who worked on the project with Facebook and current GLAAD staff. "Facebook's new gender options will make a difference to many transgender and gender nonconforming users, who are now empowered to accurately describe their own identities on the platform."

Facebook’s custom gender options include many common terms used by the transgender and gender nonconforming communities. While the set of options is not comprehensive, the company will continue to work with LGBT organizations to improve the set of options and respond to user need.

Transgender people face staggeringly disproportionate rates of discrimination, as well as higher rates of suicide. According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality:

  • Ninety percent of transgender and gender nonconforming people report harassment, discrimination and mistreatment on the job
  • Forty-one percent of transgender people reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.

According to the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN):

  • Nearly half (42 percent) of LGBT youth reported being harassed or bullied online, three times more than non-LGBT youth. 27 percent reported feeling unsafe online.
  • One in four LGBT youth (26 percent) said they had been bullied online specifically because of their sexual orientation or gender expression in the past year.

Since 2010, GLAAD has worked closely with Facebook to ensure the safety of and improve the experience for LGBT users. In October 2010, Facebook partnered with GLAAD and other national LGBT organizations to create "Network of Support," an educational initiative that works to combat anti-LGBT bullying online. GLAAD also worked with Facebook to reshape the way that the site responds to hateful, anti-LGBT comments posted on public pages. In 2011, GLAAD worked with Facebook to add 'In a domestic partnership' and 'In a civil union' options to users' profiles.

Since 2010, Facebook has participated in GLAAD's annual anti-bullying campaign Spirit Day by 'going purple' on select national pages in a stand against bullying and to show its support for LGBT youth. Facebook became the first social media company to receive a GLAAD Media Award in 2012.