The other day, I posted a commentary on another blogger’s comments about “transgender issues,” And nose Facebook has done one of the most amazing things when it comes to Gender Identity and self expression, by increasing the options users have to define their identity on-line. This is a huge story and I’m not sure most have grasp just how big and meaningful this change will be.
For good reason, there has been lots of press about the Anti-gay laws in Russia as well as Uganda and Nigeria, and as crucial as these stories are, in ways, they pale in comparison to this Facebook change. With over one billion users, Facebook is the third largest “country” on the planet. Yes, it matters when a country, even the size of Uganda acts horribly towards a part of their population. But how much good can come when a country of over one billion residents begin to become aware of Gender Identity in new and meaningful ways? The possibilities are staggering to think about. It isn’t only the number of members either, but rather the amount of time these users spend in Facebook, and the amount of activity they perform by photos uploaded, comments shared, etc.
A big topic of debate within the LGBTQ community recently has surrounded the issue of “choice.” Most LGBT activism revolves around the notion that sexual orientation is not a choice but something unchangeable and set before birth. And this may be true for Sexual Orientation. But less dialogue has happened surrounding Gender and Gender Identity. Trans persons I know, describe their own awareness of being trans as being very much like my experience of being gay- that they just knew that they were different than others, and that their insides didn’t necessarily matched their bodies. Is Gender also something set before birth with some persons born where their sex (body) and gender are aligned, and others born where these are not aligned? And what about Identity? Does the way we identify include some level of choice? We choose to identity as one thing or another, and this identity may change as we travel upon a path of understanding our gender?
No matter how I would answer these questions- what matters most is how trans persons would answer them, and Facebook’s change begins to offer trans persons a voice towards that end. For the person who sees gender from a binary of male and female, some of the options Facebook presents may seem redundant, duplicative and confusing. But the reality is that a binary understanding is flawed and we all, as a whole humanity have much to lean based on how trans persons choose to identify.
What do you think about Facebook’s actions?