A Philosopher's Blog

Fifty Genders of Facebook

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Relationships/Dating by Michael LaBossiere on February 24, 2014
Sexuality confusion

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Facebook now offers its members to select from among 50 genders. These include the old school heterosexual genders as well as the presumably Spinoza inspired pangender. Since I am awesome gendered, I believe that Facebook should offer that as choice 51, but only for me. However, I suspect I will need to endure the pain of being limited to a mere 50 options.

Upon learning of these fifty options, I was slightly surprised because I was not aware that there were fifty options. However, my colleagues who specialize in gender matters assure me that there is an infinite number of genders. If this is the case, that Facebook is still rather limited in its options.

While mocking Facebook can be amusing, the subject of gender identity is an interesting subject and it is a sign of the progress of our society that this can be a matter of legitimate concern. For folks like me who are comfortable existing within an old school gender identity (in my case, awesome straight male), these fifty options might seem to be of little or no importance. Honesty compels me to admit that I initially laughed at the 50 genders of Facebook—in fact, I thought it was something cooked up by the Onion. However, a little reflection on the matter made me realize that it is actually of some importance.

For those who are dedicated to the traditional genders, these options might seem to be signs of the moral decay of the West.  As such folks might see it, having Facebook offer 50 gender options shows that traditional gender roles are being damaged (if not destroyed) by the media and Facebook. Given that some states have legalized same-sex marriage, the idea that Facebook has embraced gender diversity must be terrifying indeed.

However, the world (and Facebook) does not (as Leibniz noted in one of his replies to the problem of evil) exist just for me. Or for you. It exists for everyone and we are not all the same.

As such, to those who do not neatly fit into the two traditional genders, this change could be quite significant. Although this is just Facebook, having these gender identities recognized by the largest social network on earth is a mark of acceptance and is likely to have some influence in other areas.

As I noted above, I comfortably occupy a traditional gender type. I’ve never questioned my sexuality nor felt that I was anything other than a straight male. This might be due to biology or perhaps I merely conformed perfectly to the social norms. Or some other factor—I do not know for sure why I am this way.

Since I teach critical thinking, I am well aware of the cognitive biases and fallacies that can lead a person to believe that what is true of herself is also true of everyone else. As such, I do not assume that everyone else is the same as me. As part of this, I also do not assume that the people who see themselves as belonging to one of the non-traditional genders are doing this simply because they want attention, want to rebel, are mentally unbalanced or some such similar negative reason. I also do not assume that they are just “faking it.” I also recognize that a person might feel just as natural and comfortable being transgender as I do being a straight male. As such, I should have no more problem with that person’s identification than that person has with mine. After all, the universe is not for me alone.

Because of this, I hold that people should be free to hold to their gender identities without being mocked, abused or harmed. While I have obviously not been mocked for being straight, I am quite familiar with being called a fag or accused of being gay or like a woman—after all, those are stock insults in our society that are thrown out for the most absurd reasons, such as not doing perfectly in a video game and not acting like the meatheads. As such, I have some small notion of how such attitudes can hurt people and I favor steps to change what underlies the idea that genders can be used as insults. Expanding the range of gender identities can, perhaps, help with this a little bit. Then again, I am sure that some folks will looking at the list of fifty for new terms to use in their hateful comments.

As a final point, one obvious reason why I think that a broader range of gender identities is fine is that another person’s gender identity is not my business—unless that identity causes legitimate harm to others. And no, being offended or disgusted are not legitimate harms. As such, if having a broader range of choices is meaningful to some people, then that is a good thing. It does no one else any harm and does some good—as such, it seems quite morally acceptable.

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14 Responses

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  1. TJB said, on February 24, 2014 at 8:39 am

    Mike, can you provide a glossary explaining how you use the terms, “gender,” “sex,” and “sexual orientation”?

    What word is left for the biological differences between males and females? I thought, for example, that “male” was a gender.

    • magus71 said, on February 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Is it not telling that we obsess about such things, yet as a society struggle to think critically, read and write, and not be obese?

      I think Theodore Dalrymple may be on to something:

      “The state action that was supposed to lead to the elimination of Beveridge’s five giants of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, and Idleness has left many people in contemporary Britain with very little of importance to decide for themselves, even in their own private spheres. They are educated by the state (at least nominally), as are their children in turn; the state provides for them in old age and has made saving unnecessary or, in some cases, actually uneconomic; they are treated and cured by the state when they are ill; they are housed by the state, if they cannot otherwise afford decent housing. Their choices concern only sex and shopping.

      No wonder that the British have changed in character, their sturdy independence replaced with passivity, querulousness, or even, at the lower reaches of society, a sullen resentment that not enough has been or is being done for them. For those at the bottom, such money as they receive is, in effect, pocket money, like the money children get from their parents, reserved for the satisfaction of whims. As a result, they are infantilized. If they behave irresponsibly—for example, by abandoning their own children wherever they father them—it is because both the rewards for behaving responsibly and the penalties for behaving irresponsibly have vanished. Such people come to live in a limbo, in which there is nothing much to hope or strive for and nothing much to fear or lose.”


    • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 24, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      To be honest, I am not on expert on the complications of these matters. You’ll want to consult a specialist in gender, sex, and sexual orientations studies.

      My usage, which is probably wrong, is as follows:

      Sex: the genetic makeup of the person and also the physical parts.
      Sexual orientation: defined by who and what a person desires to have sex with.

      Gender: I no longer know what this means, if I ever did. I use it roughly as a matter of roles that have or had some sort of link to sex and sexual orientation. So vague as to all but useless.

  2. WTP said, on February 24, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I tried to change my FB gender. Didn’t get a drop-down so entered the literal “cisnormative/gender normative/heteronormative male”. I’m an engineer, we value precision. Got the message “You must select one or more custom genders in order to save”. Not sure what my options are at this point

  3. ajmacdonaldjr said, on February 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    In the old days, the word “gender” was used to reflect objective truths (i.e., one’s being either male or female). Today the word “gender” is used to assert subjective opinions (i.e., one’s sexual preferences).

    Greater cancer risks faced by LGBT youth

    A new study led by City College of New York psychologist Margaret Rosario found that youths of same-sex orientation are more likely to engage in behaviors associated with cancer risk than heterosexuals. The peer-reviewed findings appear in the February 2014 issue of the “American Journal of Public Health.”

    Titled “Sexual Orientation Disparities in Cancer-Related Risk Behaviors of Tobacco, Alcohol, Sexual Behaviors, and Diet and Physical Activity: Pooled Youth Risk Behavior Surveys,” the study pooled YRBS (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) data from 2005 and 2007. The YRBS is a national survey of high school students conducted biennially.

    Dr. Rosario, professor of psychology in CCNY’s Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and The Graduate Center, CUNY, and her research team then studied 12 cancer-risk behaviors in sexual minorities (youth with same-sex orientation) and heterosexuals in grades 9 through 12. Of an available sample of 65,871 youth, 7.6 percent were found to be a sexual minority.

    The 12 cancer-risk behaviors included tobacco use, drinking alcohol, early sex, multiple sexual partners, higher body mass index (BMI) and lack of exercise. The report found that for all 12, sexual minorities were more likely than heterosexuals to engage in the risky behavior.

    “Sexual minorities are at risk for cancer later in life, I suggest, from a host of behaviors that begin relatively early in life,” said Professor Rosario. “No sex or ethnic racial group is at greater risk or protected for these behaviors. Overall, the study underscores the need for early interventions.”

    Her collaborators included researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Fenway Institute, and Northwestern University.

    Source: Greater cancer risks faced by LGBT youth – http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/272973.php

    • WTP said, on February 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      objective truths (i.e., one’s being either male or female)

      And variations of hermaphrodites are what, exactly?

      • apollonian said, on February 24, 2014 at 3:09 pm

        WTP: they’re hermaphrodites–what else?–what did u think?–isn’t that “objective” enough for u, seriously? Ho ho ho

        • WTP said, on February 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

          And what of hermaphrodites who were surgically altered in their youth to one sex or the other, yet emotionally does not identify with that sex? Also, you will note the original statement was an absolute objective truth of “either/or”. As also pertains to most forms. While I find the 50 categories absurdly ridiculous and tiresome exercise in PC, there are people for whom M or F does not apply and it is not unreasonable to accommodate their special situation. Save your sarcasm for when it applies.

          • apollonian said, on February 24, 2014 at 3:47 pm

            Sarcasm?–I wouldn’t think of it. Seriously, isn’t it MOST objective to just say it all out like u put it urself? “Surgically altered in youth, yet emotionally does not identify”–isn’t this quite “objective” enough? One could also say, “born male (or female), but rejects the reality, prefers and insists upon the other.”

            Ultimately, u gotta face fact we’re dealing w. people who have difficulty w. reality, insist upon their own private realities, and there are clinical terms that can be applied thereto, eh?

            • WTP said, on February 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm

              Yeah, that’s my point. Excepting of course One could also say, “born male (or female), but rejects the reality, prefers and insists upon the other.” which does not apply to what I stated. I was quite obviously speaking of hermaphrodites who were surgically altered in their youth. Surely you can find an argument without changing the subject to something that was not stated.

            • apollonian said, on February 24, 2014 at 4:01 pm

              And Mike, a Professor, ought to be ashamed of himself patronizing these pathetic, brainless, little morons like he does. But of course public edjumacation is not for purpose of genuine education; rather it’s for purpose of training, indoctrination, and programming obedient, servile little slaves and tax-payers.

            • apollonian said, on February 24, 2014 at 4:09 pm

              I told u that it’s easiest and most accurate to simply state it like u described: “hermaphrodites who were surgically altered in their youth”–what’s wrong w. that?–it may seem cumbersome, but it’s surely matter-of-fact, hence accurate. Anything else will lay u open to charges of intimidation, bullying, insensitivity, etc., right?–don’t u sense the trap u’re laying for urself? Don’t u find it needlessly tedious to be searching for a term that’s just going to be changed at whim in short while?–don’t u think u’re playing their idiot game? Ho ho ho ho

  4. apollonian said, on February 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Birth Of Another Little Bubble-Reality–Hooray, Ho Ho Ho

    Life in the world of objective reality–the REAL world, ho ho ho–is so blase’, evidently, for the advanced-thinkers (ho ho ho) we see now a little bubble-reality is invented by the CIA flunkies at Face-book for all the little morons, goons, and suckers within the “masses.”

    And I’m sure these “advanced-thinkers” actually welcome hateful comments in order for them to be afforded to commiserating w. one another, along w. opportunity to bully those who offered such critical comments.

    Newsflash Mike: the bullies and punks are the gays and multi-gendered, these w. the backing and blessings of satanist criminal masterminds funded by that key agency at the top, the US Federal Reserve Bank COUNTERFEIT scam (see RealityZone.com and Mises.org for expo on Fed.)

    For this is the establishment party-line, isn’t it?–not merely “tolerance” of perverts and psychos like gays, et al., but abolishment of objective reality, determinism, and that reason necessarily based thereupon, like science and logic. This way, we can promote such as idiotic “climate-change” big-lies, eh?

    So we see how it all goes together, this multi-gender idiocy and big-bro. in general. But don’t doubt this absurd little wonderworld will soon be coming to a screeching halt as the currency collapses.

  5. magus71 said, on March 7, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I wonder if other animals get confused about their gender?

    One comment was spot on:

    “I declare myself an FBI agent. I should now be granted access to everything to which an FBI agent has access. Who are they to tell me I’m not an FBI agent? Who do they think they are? I know that deep down, I’m an FBI agent. It’s who I really am. They need to respect that, and let me be myself.”


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