14 February 2014
American users on the social network Facebook can now choose a variety of different terms to define their gender other than just male or female. The company said it wanted its users to feel comfortable being their true selves.
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Up until now, Facebook's 1.2 billion or so users have had only two choices to define themselves: male or female, but now social networkers, initially just in the US, have a wider range of options.
The company said it worked with gay and transgender advocacy groups to select around 50 terms, including "transsexual", "bi-gender" and "androgynous". Users can also choose whether to be referred to as "he", "she" or "they."
One of Facebook's software engineers who worked on the project is going through a male to female sex change. Brielle Harrison said while it won't mean much to a lot of people, "for the few it does impact, it will mean the world".
It reflects the growing influence of the transgender rights movement in the US, which is demanding similar civil rights to the gay community.
Facebook's move has been welcomed by activists who said they "applaud Facebook for making it possible for people to be their authentic selves online."
Click here to hear the vocabulary
- to define
(here) to describe
someone who feels their true sex is not the same as their physical characteristics
- advocacy groups
groups of people who strongly and publicly support an idea
a man who wants to become a woman, or a woman who wants to become a man
of an undefined sex - neither male nor female
- civil rights
people's entitlements while living in society, such as the right to marriage, education etc.
real, true, genuine