Google+ has joined Facebook in offering an expanded array of gender options for users’ profiles. The two social media sites used to only offer three options—”male,” “female” and “other”—but now both are expanding their drop down menu to accommodate an increasing array of identities.
The new Google+ format will allow users to choose among “Male,” “Female,” “Decline to state” and “Custom.” If “Custom” is selected, a text field and pronoun field will appear where users can fill in whatever words they want. (Many trans people and others in the LGBTQ community prefer pronouns like “their” to the traditional binary “him” or “her.”) Google+ users will continue to be able to limit who can see their gender on their profile.
The new option is similar to Facebook’s new gender policy that it introduced earlier this year. Facebook users can now choose from over 70 different gender definitions that include terms like “female to male trans man,” “gender neutral,” “gender fluid” or “non-binary,” to name just a few.
“For many people, gender identity is more complex than just ‘male’ or ‘female,’” Google software engineer Rachael Bennett writes in the announcement. “Starting today, I’m proud to announce that Google+ will support an infinite number of ways to express gender identity.”
The change is a welcome one for those who have protested social networks’ identification policy. But several sites are still navigating the politics of gender. In October (after it had already introduced its new gender identification drop down menu), Facebook had to apologize for attempting to require that drag queens, transgender people and others in the LGBTQ community use their real names on their profiles. Facebook’s policy was meant to weed out fake users but inadvertently suspended hundreds of legitimate accounts that belonged to people who did not feel comfortable identifying with their legal name.