Opinion Web Exclusive

Subtle Facebook change a grand gesture toward the LGBT community

Until I was about 16 years old, I had no idea there was a difference between sex and gender. This is probably due to a variety of factors; my parents, for example, had no idea there was a difference. Most of my friends didn’t know there was a difference. In general, the people around me simply used the terms as if they were interchangeable. People didn’t always realize they were not the same thing.

Sex, in the most basic of terms, is what you biologically are. The Daily Beast explains this quite simply: sex refers “mainly to biology and is a configuration of chromosomes, hormones, gonads (ovaries, testicles), reproductive units (sperm, egg) and internal and external anatomy.”

On the other hand, gender is not necessarily a term that is used to describe what a person is physically. Rather, gender is much more about a person’s self-identification.

Unfortunately, many people are still not aware of this distinction. Many times, people who do not conform to the set binary-gender labels are marginalized and forgotten. This is especially true when it comes to websites; often, when signing up for a new account, there are only three possible options available: “male,” “female,” or “would rather not say.”

Facebook, however, recognized the gap in their website. Recently, the social media giant has changed its personal gender options to include more than 50 descriptions. ABC News posted a list of all the possible gender options. From agender to genderfluid to intersex, Facebook has made a huge attempt to try to create a more inclusive environment for its users.

Even better, Facebook has now included the option to select between three sets of pronouns: masculine, feminine or neutral — in other words, “him,” “her” or “them.”

According to The Washington Post, Facebook collaborated with GLAAD, a major LGBT group, to create its new list of gender options.

As with any transition, some people will reject the new ideas introduced. One such person was Jeff Johnston, an issues analyst for Focus on the Family, an influential national religious organization based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“Of course Facebook is entitled to manage its wildly popular site as it sees fit, but here is the bottom line: It’s impossible to deny the biological reality that humanity is divided into two halves — male and female,” Jefferson said. “Those petitioning for the change insist that there are an infinite number of genders, but just saying it doesn’t make it so. That said, we have a great deal of compassion for those who reject their biological sex and believe they are the opposite sex.”

But the appreciation that Facebook has received is much louder. Facebook has given millions of users the opportunity to provide a more accurate sense of self-identification. Moreover, Facebook has allowed the conversation about the distinction between sex and gender to grow and gain a wider audience. New users and old users alike are now more exposed to the possibilities that exist beyond the typical gender binary, and it allows people to understand that the world is not black-and-white.

There are many who would argue that this is just a baby step. But this is always how change begins: small.

I applaud Facebook for this transition. It is one of many simple ways that we can adapt and evolve into a more inclusive and friendly world where people feel like they are both understood and accepted.

Opinion columnist Carolina Treviño is an advertising freshman and may be reached at [email protected]


  • Awesome article Carolina. You articulated a much misunderstood topic very well. Keep up the good work.
    Lorraine Schroeder, Director, UH LGBT Resource Center

  • As an otherkin student, I find it disheartening that the otherkin community is left out. We need our identities to be included along with the LGBT community.

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