Facebook's 56 New Gender Options Make Science Fiction a Reality


west.m / Foter / CC BY-NC

Last Thursday, Facebook changed its gender identity feature. Previously, it distinguished only between male and female. Now, it allows users to choose among transgender, genderqueer, intersex and over 50 other possibilities. One may also pick his/her/their pronoun of choice. The Daily Beast provides the complete list as well as definitions for each term. For making these advances, we can thank an increasingly techno-centric mindset that has displaced the zero-sum mentality of government.

Predictably, some people are not happy.

On a recent episode of Fox & Friends, Clayton Morris and Tucker Carlson poked fun at the new feature, questioning why people would want to use it.

Jane Fae of The Guardian argues it would be better if Facebook simply eliminated gender identification entirely, because she believes it negatively impacts women.

Yet, as Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison told the Associated Press, "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." And why shouldn't it?

In facilitating these options, the social media site has realized something previously relegated to science fiction. In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, an alien race called Tralfamadorians can see more dimensions than humans. This makes them generally peaceful and understanding, and specifically allows them to recognize a spectrum of sexes beyond male and female.

Undoubtedly, individuals have long felt they don't fit perfectly within social norms or their own biological structure. When Vonnegut's novel was published in 1969, though, alternative sexual lifestyles were taboo, and enforced as such by law.

Government has long operated with a mindset of simple binaries: Republican or Democrat, yes or no, with us or against us. This political culture pushes a complex society onto opposite ends of ideological poles and fumbles with protecting the rights of some while infringing on others. Meanwhile, the rest of society, thanks in part to our technology saturation, wears away at this outmoded, two-dimensional paradigm in favor a more cooperative, dynamic, and productive one.

From social media to professional sports–available and engageable on TV, computers, phones, and smartwatches–we continuously expose ourselves to countless ideas, settings, and products that may challenge and develop our worldview. Likewise, big data-crunching technology becomes ever more finely calibrated to cater to particularized wants. Carlson, Morris, and Fae are free to maintain their personal preferences about Facebook and gender. They aren't set in opposition to alternatives, but alongside them. Nobody loses. Instead, we all move a bit closer to a once-fantastical future that provides abundant options for self-expression and the ability of each individual to determine the value of those options for himself/herself/themselves. 

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  1. Posting right before the PM Links? Somebody is trying to avoid the commenters.

  2. Nobody loses. Instead, we all move a bit closer to a once-fantastical future

    I agree. But I still think it’s hilarious.

    1. This.

      I’ll fight to the death for your right to call yourself whatever you want AND my right to mock you for it.

    2. Facebook’s attempt to hold off its inevitable death. “Ooooh, Facebook is so cutting edge”.

  3. It’s gone from The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name to The Love That Won’t Shut Up About It.

  4. “we all move a bit closer to a once-fantastical future”

    where a size 12 high-heeled boot stomps on a cisgendered face forever?

    1. Don’t be ridiculous.

      Platforms are better for face-stomping.

  5. That jsut sounds totally crazy to me dude.

  6. I see that “Doomcock” is not an option. I feel so othered.

    1. “Big McLarge Huge”

  7. But do they have the middle school favorite of “yes” ?

    1. “Maybe”

      /actual Middle School favorite

  8. It may be worth mentioning though that biological sex (which no right thinking person of our enlightened age would ever confuse for the nebulous and non-defined purely social construct of “gender”) actually, in point of fact, IS binary. Sometimes nature can be a cunt and you just have to deal with it.

    1. In the vast majority of cases, yes, but biologically intersex people do exist (and it’s not the same thing as transgender).

    2. Tell that to the hermaphrodites.

      1. Right, I should have put a clearer disclaimer in addition to gender for the 0.2% of live births that are intersex.

        Jesus fuck.

        1. So…what has mean old Facebook actually done to you? Any bruises or broken bones? Any articles of clothing ripped or covered in bodily fluids (apart from your own)? No? Then deal with it.

          Since this is a dead thread anyway I wouldn’t really have bothered but I really want to make an observation. If this were a story about a business that refused services to a gay person (or whoever)you (or someone here) would be defending their right to do as they choose with their business. Why do you object to a business doing as they choose in this instance. There’s no law or regulation forcing them – or forcing you to agree with them, they’re just accommodating a part of their client base. Why get so unbent?

  9. Makes sense to me. After all, “gender” just means “kind”. If you mean “sex”, say “sex”.

    (Please be gender to me. Some of you are gend, just not gend enough.)

  10. Very disappointed that the choices don’t include lesbian trapped in a man’s body.

    1. What about cross-dressing lesbian trapped in a man’s body? Stop othering.

  11. “Instead, we all move a bit closer to a once-fantastical future that provides abundant options for self-expression and the ability of each individual to determine the value of those options for himself/herself/themselves.”

    Except, no, we don’t. Calling an apple an orange doesn’t make it one. And I can perfectly well call myself President of the United States. That doesn’t make me the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Likewise, a dude in a dress is still a dude in a dress. I respect his right to wear a dress. But, I’m not going to pretend that he’s a woman. He’s not. Reality is supposed to be something that exists outside the bounds of our own idiosyncratic wishes and whimsies.

  12. his/her/their pronoun of choice

    They are nouns, not pronouns.

  13. There is no “pre-selected list” of 56 options, as you would find if you actually went to the profile edit page and saw what happens when you click on “Custom”. This story, probably another case of the “news” media quoting each other, keeps quoting a random selection of the choices people typed into the text box which pops up in response to “Custom”. The “list of 56 options” exists only in the imagination of the “reporters”.

  14. No matter how you look at it, there are only two genders, male and female. Even if you are gay, you’re male, if you’re a lesbian, you’re female. There is a very small portion of humanity which are born with both genetalia, hermaphrodite her?maph?ro?dite 1. an individual in which reproductive organs of both sexes are present. There are also the transgenders which believe they are the other gender than what they were born. I wonder what Facebook’s 56 genders could possibly be. How someone feels as to Gender Identity is an entirely different thing, but no one should want to be an It.

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