After going years without an adequate form of gender recognition, Facebook users whose identities do not fit neatly into female-male binaries now have the option of selecting one of 50 options, including “androgynous,” “transgender,” “intersex” and “fluid.”  With an estimated 700,000 individuals in the US who identify as transgender, Facebook hopes that the expanded categories will help validate the gender identities of at least some of its users.

However, there is disagreement about the use of this kind of self-identification. Some seek broader public recognition while others view gender identification as futile.
Labeling categories of gender and sexual orientation may promote a “politics of containment” where society starts to decide who is and is not an “acceptable queer.”
On the other hand, by providing alternative options for gender identification state agencies and community-based service providers can expand access to services for people in poverty.
  • Dean Spade. 2006. “Compliance Is Gendered: Struggling for Gender Self-Determination in a Hostile Economy” in Transgender Rights edited by Paisley Currah, Richard M. Juang, and Shannon Price Minter. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

For more on the recognition of gender categories on Facebook and beyond, check out these recent pieces from Cyborgology and Contexts.