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Facebook Adds Custom Gender Options for Transgender Members

<p>Facebook announced on Wednesday that it will offer custom gender option for its transgender members in the United States.</p>
Workers from Facebook's health center gather near a banner promoting gay pride at the company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters on Wednesday.Noah Berger / AP

Facebook announced on Thursday that it will offer a custom gender option for its transgender members in the United States, as well as increased privacy settings.

Transgender members among the social network's 159 million monthly users in the U.S. can chose to be addressed by him, her, or them. "People who select a custom gender will now have the ability to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly — male (he/his), female (she/her) or neutral (they/their)," the social network said in a statement. Members can further chose from a variety of options to identify their sexuality, including androgynous, transgender and gender fluid. "We also have added the ability for people to control the audience with whom they want to share their custom gender," Facebook added.

"This new feature is a step forward in recognizing transgender people and allows them to tell their authentic story in their own words," GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis, whose LGBT rights organization worked with Facebook to create the new settings, said in a statement. "Once again, Facebook is on the forefront of ensuring that the platform is safe and accessible to all of its LGBT users."

Though currently available only to U.S. members, the new gender options address a petition launched by LGBT rights network All Out, demanding that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg add additional gender options on the social network. "Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Australia legally recognize third genders, but Facebook refuses to offer additional gender options," read the petition which had 38,566 Internet signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

With a history of supporting anti-bullying programs for LGBT teens, Facebook further supported LGBT rights in 2011 when it added "In a Civil Union" and "In a Domestic Partnership" options to user profiles. In 2012, gay marriage timline icons for same-sex couples were added to the social network.