Facebook allows users to customise gender

 Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison demonstrates expanded options for gender identification Facebook said it hoped the changes would help users be their "true, authentic" selves

Facebook has announced that it will allow users to customise their gender, after consulting on the subject with gay and transgender advocacy groups.

The 50-odd options, which include "bi-gender", "transgender", "androgynous" and "transsexual", will allow people "to express themselves in an authentic way", Facebook said in a post.

Users can also choose whether to be referred to as "he", "she" or "they".

The new options will initially only be for those using the site in US English.

The new options were formulated after consultations with five leading gay and transgender rights' organisations, Facebook says.

"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," Facebook engineer Brielle Harrison told the Associated Press.

"For the first time I get to go to the site and I get to specify to all the people that I know what my gender is and I can let only the people that I want to know, see that," she said.

The move reflects the growing influence of the transgender rights movement in the US, which is demanding similar civil rights to the gay community, says the BBC's Alistair Leithead in Los Angeles.

The San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center welcomed the move, saying "many transgender people will be thrilled" at the news.

One estimate in a report by the Williams Institute think tank in 2011 said that an estimated 0.3% of adults in the US were transgender, almost 700,000 people.

A screenshot of the new gender option

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