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Facebook on Thursday announced a new feature that lets users choose a custom gender pronoun for how they want to be referred to on the social network.

Until Thursday, users were able to select only male or female as their gender designation.

Facebook said it worked with a number of LGBT groups to compile a list of gender options for users to choose from. With the change, a Facebook member can designate one or more custom gender choices.

“While to many this change may not mean much, for those it affects it means a great deal,” the company said in a blog post. “We see this as one more way we can make Facebook a place where people can express their authentic identity.”

Those who choose a custom gender can also decide how broadly they want to share that gender choice.

“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.

Along with many other Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Twitter and Google, Facebook has long been an advocate of LGBT issues, having taken largely progressive stances on offering comprehensive health benefits to employees, including transgender individuals, who may not receive the same coverage at other companies.

However, the company had faced criticism from some in the transgender community that its binary options didn’t provide enough flexibility.

A number of LGBT groups were quick to applaud Facebook’s move on Thursday.

“Over the past few years, a person’s Facebook profile truly has become their online identity, and now Facebook has taken a milestone step to allow countless people to more honestly and accurately represent themselves,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Facebook’s action is one that I hope others heed in supporting individuals’ multifaceted identities.”

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis also lauded the move, stating that the new feature allows transgender people “to tell their authentic story in their own words.”

For now, Facebook has only rolled out the option for its U.S. users, but the company hopes to expand the feature in the coming weeks.




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