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Facebook adds 50 gender options to profiles to establish LGBT equality

One of the world's most popular websites is taking a huge step toward gender equality: Facebook has announced the addition of customisable gender terms.

The social network's users now have the freedom to identify themselves as a female, male, androgynous, bi-gender, intersex, gender fluid, or transsexual.

"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. An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just 'male' or 'female,'" the company wrote on its Diversity page.

In collaboration with Facebook's Network of Support — a group of LGBT advocacy organisations — the social network will offer what it called an "extensive" list of gender identities—about 50 different terms, according to the AP.

Users can choose a preferred pronoun—he/his, she/her, they/their. And with a focus on privacy and sensitivity, the social network is adding the ability to control which audience can see their custom gender.

"We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way," Facebook said.

GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) proudly lent a hand in the development of the new feature, which President Sarah Kate Ellis said is "a step forward in recognizing transgender people," and allowing them to "tell their authentic story in their own words."

"Once again, Facebook is on the forefront of ensuring that the platform is safe and accessible to all of its LGBT users," Ellis said. One of those users happens to be Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, who worked on the custom gender project, and is undergoing gender transformation.Harrison has changed her identity from "female" to "transwoman."

"For the first time I get to go to the site and specify to all the people I know what my gender is," she told the Associated Press. "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."

Rolling out slowly to all US English Facebook users, the personalisation option can be found in the "Basic Information" section of your profile (above right). Choose female, male, or "custom" gender, then set a specific group of people who will see that change. Also edit your preferred pronoun in the drop-down menu.

"Facebook has taken a milestone step to allow countless people to more honestly and accurately represent themselves," Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin said in a statement.