Facebook, gender, and reality

I note with a politically incorrect growl of displeasure that Facebook now offers no less than 58 gender self-classificationsAccording to ABC News:

Previously, users had to identify themselves as male or female. They were also given the option of not answering or keeping their gender private.

User’s can now select a “custom” gender option.

“There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world,” Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison told the Associated Press. Harrison, who worked on the project, is in the process of gender transition, from male to female.

Facebook will also allow users to select between three pronouns: “him,” “her” or “their.”

There’s more at the link, including a complete listing of all 58 classifications.  If they seem weird to you (they do to me!), you’ll find their meaning discussed in detail here.

I must admit, the logic behind this escapes me.  I disagree profoundly with the trend to permit – even encourage – people to define their own gender and/or self-perception in this way.  As far as I’m concerned, facts override feelings.  If chromosomes say you’re male or female, it’s pretty logical that that’s what you are.  In the very few cases where chromosomal gender identity isn’t clear, that’s a ‘gray area’ where I’m open to suggestions;  but I doubt that such cases amount to even 1% of the general population.  In most cases the individual’s sexual classification is chromosomally beyond question, irrespective of what he or she may think or feel about it.

I’m prepared to admit that I’m old-fashioned when it comes to this aspect of modern living.  I’ve run into the gender-challenged crowd on far too many occasions, and generally find them to be so confused about life, the universe and everything that it’s no wonder they’re confused about themselves!  Frankly, I’ve been disgusted by some of the things I’ve seen and heard.  I’ve met very few cases where I’m prepared to accept that the individual concerned was really serious about identifying themselves as one gender whilst physically being a different gender.  I have the greatest sympathy for those genuine cases . . . but as I said, I’ve encountered very few of them.  Most of the gender-conflicted individuals I’ve met have been so screwed up in so many ways that their gender has been the least of their problems as far as I was concerned!

However, I may be wrong, and if I am, I’m willing to do my best to change.  To that end, what say you, readers?  Should I – should all of us – be more tolerant towards this sort of gender confusion?  When does reality trump compassion – or should compassion always color our response to reality?



  1. People confuse gender with sexual preference and with the cultural norms for gender identity.

    I truly believe that people do not choose their sexual orientation: We are each attracted to certain types of people (blondes, brunettes, men, women, fat, skinny, etc.) and we do so because of nature and nurture, not through choice.

    With that being said, you are either born with male genitalia, or with female genitalia. You are born with XX or born with XY. No amount of wishful thinking will change that. (And no, sexual reassignment surgery doesn't change your gender, just your appearance)

    People being confused about their gender should be treated as a mental health issue. No, that doesn't mean that they should be forced into institutions, but they are in obvious distress and should be offered all the help that they ask for.

  2. I have the impression that "legitimately ambiguous" is a bit more than 1% of the population, but not a heck of a lot more. (This gets Really Interesting if you try to come up with universally applicable, set-in-stone legal rules for who's a man and who's a woman.)
    Oddly enough, with all those "trans something" options, they don't seem to include "trans fat." Guess that one's only for cavemen, and for those obviously-paleo foods whose labels proudly proclaim, "Og trans fat!"

  3. The logic makes sense to me. Facebook's success is defined by how many users they attract. This move is extremely unlikely to lose them any users but will probably let them gain a small crowd for whom this really matters. Given that choice, why wouldn't they?

    Divemedic, many people, including the ones applauding this decision, define "sex" as the physical and biological characteristics and "gender" as the cultural norms for behavior and role. Therefore "gender" is more fluid and changeable than something like "sex" which is chromosomally set. That being said, I know at least one androgen-insensitive person who has XY chromosomes but female genitalia and appearance.

  4. I remember the Eastern Bloc womens' teams from Olympics before 1990.

    And based on that, I'm cool with more than two genders.

  5. I suggest everyone google the term "genderqueer" – human sexuality comes in more than just gay/straight/bi

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