Facebook users will find Thursday that they’re no longer limited to identifying themselves as either male or female. A new custom option will allow people to choose from around 50 different terms for their gender, in addition to being allowed to choose their preferred pronoun.
The new options — which include identifications such as androgynous, bigender, transsexual, gender fluid, male to female and female to male, among others, and pronoun choices of him, her or them — will initially be available for the 159 million monthly users in the U.S. Facebook gives the option of sharing the gender identity or set it privately.
On Facebook’s official Diversity page, the company assured users that they can control the audiences with whom they share their gender identity.
“We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way,” the company said in a statement.
Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, who is going through a gender transformation, told the Associated Press that she is excited to be able to explicitly tell others how she self-identifies.
“All too often transgender people like myself and other gender nonconforming people are given this binary option, do you want to be male or female? What is your gender? And it’s kind of disheartening because none of those let us tell others who we really are,” she said. “This really changes that, and for the first time I get to go to the site and specify to all the people I know what my gender is.”
An estimated nearly-700,000 individuals in the U.S, roughly 0.3 percent of the population, identify as transgender, according to a 2011 report by The Williams Institute.
Facebook came up with the terms after consulting with prominent LGBT activists, however, the move has already had significant backlash.
“Of course Facebook is entitled to manage its wildly popular site as it sees fit, but here is the bottom line: It’s impossible to deny the biological reality that humanity is divided into two halves — male and female,” Jeff Johnston, an issues analyst for Focus on the Family, told the Associated Press.
But others say there is more to be done.
“There is still no option to identify my relationship with my queer/genderqueer child without selecting Son or Daughter, even after they changed their profile to neutral pronouns,” one user noted on the Facebook Diversity announcement.