Facebook made waves this week when it announced that users can now choose from a variety of gender identity and pronoun options when editing their profile. Gender identity options include gender fluid, agender, genderqueer, transgender and intersex. Users can also opt for they/them pronouns instead of he/him or she/her pronouns.It was a step forward for gender-nonconforming people, who were finally able to be correctly represented on the site in a convenient and official way. However, this change is also important for cisgender people to take note of.
‘Cisgender’ refers to a person whose gender identity aligns with their gender assigned at birth. It is widely considered normative, so much so that the word itself remains widely unknown, even in academic circles. The normalization of cisgenderedness has rendered it an invisible identity, much like heterosexuality or whiteness. Nevertheless, the new Facebook gender identity options include “cisgender male” and “cisgender female.”Labeling oneself as cisgender on Facebook is an important act of alliance. Doing so is just one of many small acts one can perform to dismantle the normative status afforded to cisgendered people.
As long as cisgender remains an invisible identity, gender-nonconforming people will remain the ‘other.’ Facebook’s new gender identity options can serve as an opportunity for all people to bring visibility to their identities, and in doing so, break down perceptions of what is considered normal.