If recent history is any indication, you may want to go ahead and pick up those rocks now and assume a throwing stance.
Yesterday, Facebook announced that it was expanding the options its users could choose from when labeling gender status on their profiles. From now on, in addition to the standard “male/female,” there will be 50 or so other available options Facebook users can pick to “customize” their gender status. The move was done in collaboration with Network of Support, a cooperative of LGBT advocacy groups, and so far been it’s met with mostly positive reaction, which it should be since human sexuality and gender have never been a completely binary proposition. So now, if you self-identify as a trans female, a trans male, or just a general trans person — or even if you consider yourself androgynous, cisgender, gender fluid or gender questioning — you can reflect as much on your Facebook page. Right now the new gender settings are only available in the United States but they should spread worldwide soon.
Considering that about a seventh of the world’s population is on Facebook, statistically, no matter how many gender options are made available there will be thousands and thousands of people falling under each one. In other words, if you were to filter by gender there would always be someone — many people, in fact — for anyone. There are also highly neutral options within the new Facebook settings like “gender variant,” and “neither,” for those who feel like they don’t quite fit with the four-dozen other choices they’ve been given. In other words, pretty much all bases are covered here, right?
Come on. This is the social media era we’re talking about.
Among the more than 200 comments left under Facebook’s official announcement are quite a few that, while applauding the new gender settings, complain that more should be done. And by more, I mean that every single possible way one might self-identify gender or sexuality — right down to combinations so specific they would make a sociocultural anthropologist give up and go get drunk — isn’t available as a potential option at the moment, and that’s apparently a problem.
Some of the comments:
“There is much more needed. I would like to put in my custom gender of ‘Butch’ and that doesn’t appear in the dropdown. Also there’s Cis/Cisgendered Female and Trans/Transgendered Female — I’m female but not Cis in many ways because of genderqueer identity but might still want to put ‘female’ on there without a modifier.
“There is still no option to identify my queer/genderqueer child without selecting Son or Daughter, even after they changed their profile to neutral pronouns. :(“
“I want to change my Facebook gender to include my gender expression and be ‘Androgynous Male.’ The ‘Androgynous’ option is available but the simple ‘Male’ is not a custom option.”
“Please allow us to select femme, butch, masculine-of-center, stud, and feminine-of-center as genders. Even now I cannot express my gender on Facebook, as femme is the only gender I identify as.”
Certainly, every person is entitled to be whatever he or she — or anything in between — wants to be. A person’s gender identity affects no one but that person and I’d never actively seek to oppress anybody or, I hope, do so through casual negligence. Nobody should be made uncomfortable by somebody else’s lifestyle, beliefs, behavior, or self-identification when it doesn’t have any kind of direct impact on them. Admittedly, though, there has to come a point, no matter who you are, where you accept that while the world shouldn’t discriminate against you for the way you self-identify, neither can it always be expected to defer to you on the subject in a manner that satisfies you completely. It’s one of the pitfalls of being different: sometimes you get overlooked. If you pride yourself on being unique or one a very small subset, this shouldn’t really bother you. Only in a world dominated by the various social media that feed everyone’s sense of self and allow for the balkanization of society along every possible dividing line does each person now feel special enough to deserve their own category.
If you’re truly an individual, then maybe your name on that Facebook profile should be the only identifying label you need. Social media ego-stroking aside, that is, after all, the most precious thing you are: you. Sorry to be crass about a sensitive subject, but if you’re so far up your own ass that you’re actually miffed that one of 50 possible options for gender somehow doesn’t fit the way you see and want to label yourself, it just might be that Facebook isn’t the one with the issue, snowflake.
Most people in this world deserve to be treated with dignity. Certainly, all should be regarded equally, irrespective of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and so on. But when it comes to adopting a specific label, maybe look at it like this: At the narrow end of the spectrum is each unique individual, while at the wide end is humanity. Everything else in between — all those labels we use to split us up into little groups — in the world we’d like to live in, would any of that really be worth arguing over?
I will now commence ducking and nodding my head in submission at the cries of white, cisgender-heteronormal male privilege.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.