Dr. Sally Raskoff writes about Facebook’s struggle with gender (not to be confused with sex, a biological duality).
After considerable consultation, Facebook now allows 58 variations of gender. You can find the list here.
This is tricky ground. Gender is deeply personal. The options for Facebook (and many other communities) is as follows:
1) Remove the gender field. This implies gender isn’t important to Facebook. Yet if Facebook is our constructed identities, gender is a core part of many of our identities. Changing gender to ‘sex’ would have the same result.
2) Create an open gender box. Let people write in their own gender. This allows people to be specific. However, those with genders which differ from the traditional norms may be offended when people use this in a light-hearted way (e.g. jedi).
3) Keep to male/female. This is the simplest option, but may upset those outside of these traditional gender roles. It reinforces isolation from society.
No easy answers here. Gender is fluid and variations continue to appear. The more inclusive Facebook (and our communities) try to be, the greater the alienation felt by those who don’t conform to the 58 genders.
Most sites should remove gender entirely. It’s not relevant. The rest should provide people the option, but not a requirement, to choose or write their agenda.
On October 29th to 30th, the world’s top 250 community professionals are going to SPRINT in San Francisco. Will you be one of them?