Monday, February 24, 2014

Gender Pronouns and Facebook

If you haven't heard the big news yet, I'm not sure where you've been.  Facebook is now Gender Pronoun friendly, letting you choose from over 10 different gender options that will appear on your profile.  This is a great addition to the website, making it more inclusive and aware of the fact that there are more than two genders in the world.  
“While to many this change may not mean much, for those it affects it means a great deal,” said Facebook publicist Will Hodges in an email. “We see this as one more way we can make Facebook a place where people can express their authentic identity.”
 This is huge for the Queer community and people who might struggle with gender identity publicly.  They can switch to gender neutral pronouns and everyone would see "they/them/their" whenever Facebook references them. This, although not giving much away about their gender identity, could be the safest way to reference that a person does not conform to the gender binary.  Facebook has made the internet a safer place to be yourself.
 “We also have added the ability for people to control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender. 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.”
However, although this option is great and shows progress in the acceptance of Queer people, there are also many more expectations that are growing from Facebook.  I have heard many people say that they are now expecting Facebook to add more sexual orientation options. Currently, the only options for "Interested In" is women and/or men.  Although this allows for people to let others know they are "LGB," it does not allow for the "Q" or anything under "Q" such as Pansexual, Asexual, Demisexual, and so on.

It is also hard to be proud of Facebook when they are so excited to be accepting awards for inclusiveness (and other things) when this website can still be harmful to not only Queer communities, but other marginalized identities.  Many times, I have come upon rasict, sexist, homophobic pages and have reported them only to get a response from Facebook that says that the pages are not doing any harm. 
Both through its service’s options and its company culture, Facebook is setting a positive example for how tech can promote tolerance.
"Tolerance" being the key word. Facebook has made very minimal changes that are few and far between to support different communities such as Queer people. I am hopeful that they continue to make changes, but start to promote support or maybe even ally ship rather than tolerance.

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