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News of interest to the transgender/transsexual community

2014-FEB: About Facebook's
56 gender identity options

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2014-FEB-14: Valentine's day: Webmaster's comments on Facebook's decision. [bias alert]:

We expected that Facebook would receive many negative comments, particularly from religious and social conservatives. Most of them believe that:

  • Only two genders exist: male and female. If one is not permanently male then she must be permanently female, and vice-versa.

  • One's birth-assigned gender is valid for the rest of a person's life. It describes them permanently. It defines how they will be treated by others. It defines what gender they will consider themselves to be. It defines what public washroom they must use, etc.

  • Non-cis-gendered persons are not transgender individuals or transsexuals. They are "gender confused."

We were not surprised at the comments. Most of them were positive, but some were very negative and even vicious.

Facebook has been strongly criticized by many religious and social conservatives for not giving their members only two gender options and thus requiring participants to declare their gender permanently as either male or female. They have criticized Facebook for having created 54 additional genders.

However that is not what Facebook and their advisors have actually done. Essentially all of the 56 options allowed do not define new genders. Instead, they define the participants' understanding of how they express their gender identity in terms of:

  • Male,

  • Female,

  • Both male and female, and

  • Neither male nor female.

That is, non-cis-gendered persons generally still define their gender in terms of the two genders: male and female. However, they may define their gender identity as a male to female transgender person, a female to male transgender person, a mixture of both male and female, switching between male and female, or neither male nor female.

An analogy in the area of religion might be a helpful aid to understanding. Suppose there were only two religions in the world. Call them "Aboriginal" and "Non-aboriginal." Only two religions would exist. But there would be multiple religious identities"

  • Many would be born into the Aborigional faith and remain Aboriginal throughout life.
  • Most of the rest would be born into the Non-aboriginal faith and remain Non-aboriginal.
  • A few would consider their religious identity to be both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. They might describe their religious identity as:
    • Switching from time to time between the two religions;

    • Being intermediate between the two religions; they might describe their religious identity as incorporating beliefs from the two religions.

  • Having no religion. Religion may not be a meaningful part of their life.

  • A few would describe their religious identity as having switched from Aboriginal to Non-aboriginal or vice-versa during their life.

Only two religions, but multiple religious identities.

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2014-FEB-18: Comments posted by readers of the Facebook article:

Minor grammatical changes have been made to the original postings:

  • Krystal Śmierć wrote: " 'Interested in' now needs to be fixed, it's still only Female/Male."

  • Derek Stephens wrote: "It's too bad that bigot isn't one of the new option for those so adamantly against this change. This change is huge in my book, a step in the right direction. With any change its not perfect and takes time to adjust."

  • Katarina Dutton wrote: "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have made me feel like a real person and I cannot tell you how much that matters."

  • Lex Blue wrote: "So many tiny minds imploding because people aren't forced to select M or F on an online profile anymore."

  • Angie Kiel Hendrix wrote: "Xochitl...I encourage you open your mind & heart to educating yourself on this topic. Your comments are simply incorrect. For thousands of years we thought the earth was flat. We know clearly know it's not. The topic of gender identity is very similar. Plus, until you've walked in someone else's shoes, who are you to judge? The idea that the LGBTQ population is that way due to sexual abuse is SO completely untrue. Again, please seek out information before you spew what you think are facts. And remember, we learn the most from those who are different from us."

  • Sebastian Tulejarz wrote: "That's ridiculous and stupid. By checking any option other than male/female you show the whole world that you are in need of therapy."

  • Kelly Kearns wrote: "Seriously, this is what Facebook is doing? Really? No one makes a big deal that I am a heterosexual female and I don't have to announce it to the world, have a special title or anything. Honestly, I'm so sick of everything being turned into something racial, sexual preference and now gender. The more people do this, the more disconnected people become. My word, we are human beings, male or female and we love and marry whomever we love and marry, simple. I can't stand the fact that in America, we have American and African Americans and now people are starting to add other groups becoming "whatever" American. People don't want division and don't want to be seen as different, yet they INSIST on being LABELED as different and creating divisions. My family heritage on one side is Indian, American Indian, the other side French. We don't use the term Native American and I only say "American Indian" to differentiate between American Indian and India Indian. My family from France does not call themselves French American. We are all human beings, Americans and we don't carry on and on about each person's sexual preference. If someone doesn't want to be made to feel different, then do not DEMAND to be set aside as "different". This is getting beyond stupid and way out of control."

  • Ann Post wrote: "Awesome! Finally breaking out of the gender binary straight jacket!"

  • John Snover wrote: "Wow. This fills me with so much diversity I just want to puke. Get over yourselves."

  • XCarlos PazRamazzini wrote: "Male or female. There are no more genders. You are normal or you need therapy. Simple."

  • Mackenzie Renee DuQuesne wrote: "This is absolutely horrible! Shame on you Facebook."

  • Joseph Remus wrote: There's only 2 genders, male and female, if you think otherwise you know nothing of biology."

  • Kathy Henderson wrote: "God made us male and female...plain and simple. Look it up in the Bible."

  • Saul Gutierrez wrote: "What's the world coming too. I have lost faith in America for allowing this garbage to happen."

  • Jake Reid wrote: "I'm sorry there's only two genders last time I checked. WTF is this? Stop supporting delusional behavior."

  • Dave Novak wrote: "Thanks for contributing to the destruction of civilization. Feeling shame for what you have done, or what you have become is inherent in all of us. If you have make things up to describe what you are, you are quite a bit too full of yourselves."

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Options that Facebook provides that individuals can use to specify their gender identity:

The specific options that Facebook have provided are:

  • Agender A person without a gender identity; that is, neither male nor female.

  • Androgyne and Androgynous: Possessing traits that are simultaneously feminine and masculine, or neither.

  • Bigender A person who feels that their gender is both fully male and fully female, or any pair of genders. They often switch between the two.

  • Cis, Cisgender, Cissexual. Cis Female, Cis Male. Cis Man, Cis Woman, Cisgender Female, Cisgender Male, Cisgender Man, Cisgender Woman: A person whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth.

  • Female to Male, FTM: A person who has transitioned or is transitioning from female to male.

  • Gender Fluid: A person whose gender identity freely moves between/among genders.

  • Gender Nonconforming, Gender Variant: A person whose behaviour or gender expression does not conform to traditional male/female gender norms.

  • Gender Questioning: A person who has not settled on a gender identity.

  • Genderqueer: A person whose gender identity is other than male or female.

  • Intersex: A person born with sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, and/or chromosome patterns that do not fit the typical definition of male or female

  • Male to Female: MTF: A person who has transitioned or is transitioning from male to female.

  • Neither: A person who identifies themselves as neither male nor female.

  • Neutrois, Null-gendered: A person who does not identify themself as having a gender.

  • Non-binary: A person who identifies their gender identity as different from male and female. They may feel that they are both, neither, or a mixture of male and female.

  • Other: A catch-all term for persons who do not feel that they are adequately described by any of the other terms.

  • Pangender: See Androgyne.

  • Transgender, Trans, Trans Female, Trans Woman, Transgender Female, Trans Male, Transgender Male, Trans Man, Trans Person, Transgender Person: A person who identifies their gender as different from that of their body or who were assigned a gender at birth that does not match their gender identity.

  • Transexual, Transsexual Female, Trams Woman. Transsexual Male, Transsexual Man, Transsexual Woman, Transsexual Person : Often used as a synonym for Transgender. Sometimes refers only to transgendered persons who live daily according to their gender identity.

  • Transmasculine: A person who was assigned a female identity at birth but who now identifies more male than female.

  • Two-spirit: A term used by Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native Americans and Canadian First Nations indigenous groups) 6

The option to not declare their gender as male or female is still available. They will also be able to ask to be referred to as he, she, or they.

Facebook expects to expand the options beyond the U.S. to the rest of the world at a later date.

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Some comments by trandgender/transsexual individuals and their supporters:

  • Brielle Harrison, a Facebook software engineer who worked on the transition, is herself a transgender person undergoing a transition from male to female. She said:

    "There's going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world. ... 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. 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." 7

    She now defines herself on her Facebook page as TransWoman.

  • Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said:

    "Over the past few years, a person's Facebook profile truly has become their online identity, and now Facebook has taken a milestone step to allow countless people to more honestly and accurately represent themselves. Facebook's action is one that I hope others heed in supporting individuals' multifaceted identities." 7

  • Jon Le Breton of Illawarra in Australia said that the Facebook change will [eventually] be seen by all of its 1.15 billion active users worldwide, and that this is a positive step for recognition of the LGBTIQ community. He commented:

    "It’s about the world being more inclusive. We were only given two options to choose, but some people don’t fit into those labels any more. [The new options] ... acknowledges what people feel about themselves. It creates awareness for the LGBTIQ community, and lets them represent themselves online the way they want to, not just the way they are told to." 8

  • Nori Herras-Castaneda, a transgender activist and spokeswoman for the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center in San Jose, said:

    "We always talk about how gender is a spectrum,' she said. 'I can see a lot of people being extremely happy about this." 6

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This topic continues in the next essay with news of interest
to the transgender/transsexual community later in 2014

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jack Ford, "Televangelist Pat Robertson Affirms Transgender Identities," Think Progress, 2013-JUL-29, at: Televangelist Pat Robertson Affirms Transgender Identities, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  2. "Bring it On-Line: Am I stealing from God?" You Tube, at: http://youtu.be
  3. "A transgender teen love story," Huffington Post, 2013-AUG-03, at: http://videos.huffingtonpost.com/
  4. "Federal Appeals Court rules for GID," The Rainbow Times, 2014-JAN-19, at: http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/
  5. "Ruling in Favor of Treatment for Transgender Inmate Upholds Important Constitutional Principle," The Rainbow Times, 2014-JAN-18, at: http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/
  6. MODIFIED FROM: "Male, female or 48 other varieties? Now Facebook offers users FIFTY different genders to choose from," Daily Mail, 2014-FEB-13, at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
  7. Kashmira Gander, "Facebook's new gender options: 50 new categories include trans and intersex," The Independent, 2014-FEB-13, at: http://www.independent.co.uk/
  8. Joshua Butler, "Facebook's new gender settings earn praise," Illawarra mercury, 2014-FEB-14, at: http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/
  9. Diversity Page, Facebook, at: https://www.facebook.com/

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Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-JUN-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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