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Facebook just took an important step toward LGBTQ inclusiveness

Facebook announced on Thursday that it will let users write in their gender identity on their profiles, instead of limiting gender selection to a pre-populated list.

The company began allowing users to choose from more than 50 options last year, but some people complained none of the choices matched how they identify.

LGBT group GLAAD praised Thursday's announcement as a step forward for Facebook, which has a tumultuous history with transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Last year, Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox apologized to LGBTQ users who were getting locked out of the service for allegedly using inauthentic names, even though they were using the names they go by in real life. Cox promised that Facebook would improve its processes to try to avoid wrongly locking people out.

But many trans and gender non-conforming people continue experiencing issues using their real names. Nadia Kayyali explained in the San Francisco Bay Guardian that this further hurts people who are already targeted by bigoted bullies:

[W]hat's really absurd about the policy is this: it isn't even designed very well to do what it's supposed to. Facebook's enforcement team isn't scouring the site looking for people who don't comply with the policy… The only thing the policy really does is allow people to anonymously target others, by reporting them... [T]he real burden of the policy ends up falling on communities that have already been unfairly burdened, by discrimination, violence, and political repression.

In response to Thursday's announcement, people posted in the comments that, while they appreciate the step forward, they would like to see Facebook change the rest of its platform and policies to make them more accessible to all LGBTQ communities. As one user put it, "You have only have only gone halfway Facebook when it comes to gender identity. Gender is not a category to put yourself in. It is an expression of how you see yourself and how you show yourself in the world."

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