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Facebook goes beyond 'male' and 'female' with new gender options

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(CNN) -- You don't have to be strictly a man or a woman on Facebook anymore.

In a nod to the "it's complicated" sexual identities of many of its users, the social network on Thursday added a third "custom" gender option for people's profiles. In addition to Male or Female, Facebook now lets U.S. users choose among some 50 additional options such as "transgender," "cisgender," "gender fluid," "intersex" and "neither."

Users also now have the ability to choose the pronoun they'd like to be referred to publicly: he/his, she/her, or the gender-neutral they/their.

"When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self," Facebook said in a post on its Diversity page.

"An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just 'male' or 'female,' " the post continued. "So today, we're proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook."

Facebook said it worked with a group of leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organizations to come up with the new gender categories.

"Facebook users from across the country have been asking for the ability to reflect their gender accurately, and today Facebook showed they have been listening," said Allison Palmer, a former GLAAD vice president, who worked on the project with Facebook.

To edit your gender status (or other personal information), Facebook offers these instructions:

Go to your Timeline (which we sometimes refer to as your profile).

Click Update Info at the bottom of your cover photo.

Click Edit in the top right of the section you'd like to change. (The new gender options are only accessible within an autocomplete drop-down menu, so you have to begin typing to see them appear.)

Enter your new info and click Save.

Among other new gender options identified on Facebook so far: Trans Female, Trans Male, Trans Person, Gender Variant, Gender Questioning, Bigender, Androgynous, Pangender and Transsexual.

Facebook also tweaked its privacy settings to let users control with whom they share their custom gender.

Reaction on social media Thursday was largely positive, although some people joked they would need a dictionary to look up many of the gender-identity terms.

The social network did not say Thursday when the new gender options might be available to users outside the U.S.


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