Facebook praised for changing gender profile options

by | Feb 13, 2014 | News

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By Glyn Bowerman

Human rights organizations are praising social media site Facebook for updating its policy on gender identity.

Toronto PFLAG and Egale Canada held a press conference, following the announcement, to voice their support for broader options concerning gender identity, pronouns used on the site and the option to choose who users share their gender identity with online.

The policy was released on the Facebook Diversity page Thursday afternoon.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale, lauded the move in a prepared statement.

“Following the global social media leader’s tenth anniversary milestone, people who use Facebook in U.S. English can now select from a significantly broader range of gender choices and suitable pronouns that they feel best describe their identity.”

Kennedy said Facebook has collaborated with leading advocacy organizations to draw-up the new policy in order to offer an extensive list of gender identity terms beyond just male or female, when the site began.

photo (1)“We look forward to the availability of these options for all Facebook users, worldwide,” said Kennedy.

“It’s a principled initiative that responds to the need for dialogue pertaining to gender identity and sexual orientation on a global level.”

Irene Miller, president of Toronto PFLAG, said the new policy is particularly timely.

“We see many families now with teens in high school, in almost every high school we visit, we’re aware that someone in that high school is transitioning or is in the process of transitioning,” Miller said.

“With social media being the way our youth communicate, this will help them feel more confident within themselves and let everyone they’re in contact with be comfortable in how they address them.”

Kennedy also pointed out that Canada does not have gender identity or gender expression included in the Canadian Human Rights Act, or the Criminal Code of Canada, though there is a bill – C-279 – before Senate, awaiting approval to recognize and protect trans people, under the law.

The announcement came on the same day trans woman Avery Edison, a British comedian, was to be sent home to London from Toronto, after being detained in a men’s correctional facility over immigration issues.

Edison kept a brave face, tweeting the ordeal, in spite of the obvious risks the move posed.

It was only after enormous public outcry online that Edison was eventually transferred to a women’s facility.

As for Facebook, why would a private social media site be taking the lead on an issue where governments lag behind?

“Usually that’s the case,” said Kennedy.

“It’s extremely important to have allies in this work, and I know that the LGBT employees at Facebook have been on the inside, pushing and pushing hard to get these changes.”

“It’s an important contribution to recognize some of the most marginalized people in our society.”