Facebook expands member options for gender identity

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Changes announced today on Facebook.

Facebook today (Feb. 13) announced it has expanded the way users can identify gender on their profiles.

The need for the social media giant’s change is bolstered by a new report released today by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in partnership with Gender Spectrum.

In a survey of 10,000 LGBT youth, nearly 10 percent of respondents fall into a “gender-expansive” grouping — underscoring the need for moves such as the one Facebook announced. The report further analyzes the results of a survey of LGBT-identified youth first reported in “Growing Up LGBT in America.” Of the 925 gender-expansive respondents, one-third identified as transgender and two-thirds wrote in their own terms, such as queer, gender-queer, gender fluid and non-binary.

"Over the past few years, a person's Facebook profile truly has become their online identity, and now Facebook has taken a milestone step to allow countless people to more honestly and accurately represent themselves,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a news release. “Facebook’s action is one that I hope others heed in supporting individuals’ multifaceted identities."

The data also reveal that many gender-expansive youth find themselves in an environment that is not supportive of their health and well-being. Less than half of the gender-expansive youth report having an adult in their family they could turn to if they felt worried or sad.

And gender-expansive youth are much less likely to report “definitely fitting in” in their community than their peers. Only 5 percent reported “definitely fitting in,” with 30 percent reporting “definitely not fitting in.”

The report shows that only 4 percent of the gender-expansive youth reported being “very happy,” nearly seven times less than their peers. Nearly one in 10 gender-expansive youth reported being “very unhappy.”

The report also reveals:

• More than four in 10 gender-expansive youth report “frequently” or “often” being called names involving anti-gay slurs and 40 percent report being excluded by peers “frequently” or “often."

• Nearly half of gender-expansive youth reported experimenting with alcohol and drugs, double the rate of their peers.

• More than 50 percent of gender-expansive youth reported “never participating” in the majority of activities listed in the survey. If it weren’t for after school activities, online LGBT community and school Gay Straight Alliances, gender-expansive youth would not be engaged in activities that build confidence and social skills.

“The rising tide of equality cannot leave anyone behind, and this new report shows that we’ve got to work harder than ever before to make sure that every young person is guaranteed an equal future, no matter their gender identity or expression,” said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Children, Youth and Families Program, and a professional social worker. “These teens have incredible honesty in the way they express themselves, and the caregivers in their lives have a lot to learn from them. It’s up to us to ensure that they have the networks of support and understanding that every child needs to thrive.”