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Nation/World

February 14, 2014

New gender options for Facebook users

(Continued)

“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,” said Jeff Johnston, an issues analyst for Focus on the Family, an influential national religious organization based in Denver. “Those petitioning for the change insist that there are an infinite number of genders, but just saying it doesn’t make it so. That said, we have a great deal of compassion for those who reject their biological sex and believe they are the opposite sex.”

Masen Davis, executive director of the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, said it may be hard for some people to understand the importance of having the ability to select from multiple genders online. But he said many transgender people will be thrilled with the change.

“We applaud Facebook for making it possible for people to be their authentic selves online,” he said.

In the past decade, the transgender movement has become much more organized and outspoken, demanding the kind of civil rights and respect already sought by gay activists. During this time, the transgender umbrella has been growing well beyond transsexuals to encompass a wide variety of gender identities.

The move by Facebook came after years of lobbying from users, some who started Facebook pages to petition for the change. Google+ offers male, female and “other” as choices, but transgender advocates said Facebook’s many specific options puts the platform well ahead of any other online community. About 1 percent of Google+ users identify as other.

The idea of expanding gender choices percolated at Facebook for about a year and started to come to fruition during an in-house brainstorming four months ago, project manager Lexi Ross said.

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