In the Loop: Facebook gender options pave way for companies to bring change, awareness

When Facebook added 56 new gender options for users of the site last Thursday — bringing the grand total to 58 — the addition represented an inclusiveness and awareness of Facebook users that should be applauded. Though it may be what some consider a subtle change, made with little in the way of fanfare, adding non-traditional gender options gives users the ability to identify and express themselves in the same way they might do so in real life — that is to say, however they want.

The change made by Facebook will go unnoticed by the majority of the network’s users. But other large businesses and organizations should take note of Facebook’s decision and consider making similar efforts.

It has not yet been a year since DOMA was overturned, signifying “climate change” toward open-mindedness about people who are attracted to people of the same sex. Is this a step forward so bold, or is it merely a sign of the times? In either case,  Facebook, with 1.23 billion monthly active users as of Dec. 31, has the power to aid awareness of gender identification beyond male and female.

Often, large businesses and organizations stay removed from taking stances on topics that are opposed by some portion of society (gender identification, religion, gay rights, etc.). However, a move like this might just be good business. When DOMA was overturned, Marriott Hotels, OREO cookies and a laundry list of other businesses proclaimed their support of equal marriage rights. Savvy businesses understand that hating on customers for their orientation is bad business. Could this “technical adjustment” by Facebook just be good business, or are they truly advocating the next step forward — not just equality based on orientation, but gender identification?

Other organizations should follow Facebook’s lead as a way to stay in tune with self-identification and social acceptance. Many businesses will inevitably continue to remain at distance from debated societal topics, but moves such as Facebook’s expansion of gender options demonstrate the power of large companies to increase awareness and bring light to situations that are unfair.

Editorials in the “In the Loop” section reflect the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, comprised of five editors. 

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