As Patrick Brennan recently discussed on the Corner, it’s getting harder to know how to refer to another person’s gender(s). Now, Facebook is making it even harder.
The Associated Press recently broke the news that Facebook now offers users a customizable gender option with about 50 different gender-identifying terms people can use to describe themselves along with three separate pronoun choices: him, her, or them.
The grammatical debate over the application of the plural pronoun “them” to a singular subject aside, it’s a sad sign of the times that Facebook excluded whatever the 51st gender descriptor is, thus committing a hate crime against the dozens of people who probably describe themselves with said descriptor.
How dejected — nay depressed — must flexual people feel knowing that Facebook now accepts cisgender females, Trans*Men, and Trans*Males (don’t worry, the distinctions elude me, too) but not them and their girlfag peers.
Or what of all the trigender people who find out that Facebook will let one choose up to “bigender” but not beyond. They must be at least a third as offended as the flexuals.
(For a necessarily incomplete list of possible gender identities, please see the website genderqueerid.com. If you feel you identify with none of the terms on the list, the website is most likely phobic of whatever you may be.)
The changes Facebook introduced cover only users in the U.S., most likely because it’s hard to translate “genderqueer” and “transsexual female” into Kiswahili.
“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,” said Brielle Harrison, a Facebook engineer who is currently changing gender from male to female. Harrison says that Harrison is going to use the new options and change Harrison’s Facebook identity from female to transwoman. (My apologies for the multiple “Harrisons”. I was unsure of the correct pronoun for those who are born male and becoming female while also changing their gender identity from female to transwoman.)
For all the slighted genders, Facebook continues to offer the option to denote no gender or to choose “neither” or “other.” However, some are worried that choosing “neither –” thereby saying you do not apply to either of two options — implicitly favors the traditional male-female binary so overwhelmingly insensitive to the infinitude of other genders.
For the time being, those “others” whose gender descriptors are still not formally recognized by Facebook will continue to exist as second-class users, segregated from mainstream Facebookdom.