How Facebook & the transgender community finally fell in love

Above: GLAAD vice president Rich Ferraro.

Image Credit: Rich Ferraro

It’s official: The transgender community and Facebook are now besties.

Facebook has installed a new feature on users’ profiles to let people select a custom gender option to identify themselves, indicate “preferred pronouns,” and adjust privacy settings.

The news was an immediate hit with the transgender community, who say its about time.

FB <3 LGBT

“Facebook has sent a message to the transgender community by saying it’s ok to be yourself,” said Rich Ferraro, vice president for communications with GLAAD, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group based in New York.

“This,” Ferraro said, is a “network of support.”

GLAAD worked closely with Facebook officials to devise the feature. The group began collaborating with Facebook in 2010 after contacting the social media titan and informing it of the hateful postings on a page dedicated to the transgender community. Ferraro said Facebook immediately assigned a staffer to monitor the page and remove posts bashing members of the gay and transgender community.

“Facebook responded very quickly and aggressively to stop the hate,” he said.

“Users have been asking for this for a long time,” said Allison Palmer, a former GLAAD employee who worked with Facebook to devise the feature.

“We’ve seen the reaction, and its been overwhelmingly positive.”

The feature is only available to users inside the US, a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat. And the company plans to expand the gender category soon to foreign language speakers globally.

One reason for the update was that Facebook’s analytics concluded “lots of people, in absolute terms, don’t even identify themselves as male or female,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

So “we want to provide users with a way they can specifically describe their gender,” the spokesperson added.

GLAAD has also worked with Facebook to introduce other projects, like adding civil unions and domestic partnerships to the relationship status menu, Ferraro said.

Introducing the feature was a long time coming, Palmer said.

After all, she said, “Facebook has transgender members as part of their staff.”


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