When Google software engineer Rachael Bennet shared a post this week announcing that "Google+ will support an infinite number of ways to express gender identity," she was met with mixed reactions. The comments were largely positive, some curious and confused, and a handful of others outright mocking.
"No mom you don't understand, I'm really a pink pansexual liger inside. CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!!!" wrote one user.
Yonatan Zunger, chief architect at Google Plus, responded, "Seriously, dude, what is your problem?"
Comments like, "This is great news and a great step forward for gender equality and awareness," mingled with ones such as, "It has to be a joke, God made all living creatures male or female..." and, "My gender is now Banana. Thank you."
Gender is no longer a binary notion. By some counts there are as many as 6 or 70 unique genders -- or perhaps an infinite number. In February, Facebook released more than 50 options for users to choose on their profiles.
Of the Google change, Bennet said this in her post:
Previously, we provided options for "Male," "Female," and "Other," to encompass both those who don't fit into the traditional gender labels and those who don't want to declare their gender to the world at large. Now, the gender field on your profile will contain four entries, "Male," "Female," "Decline to state," and "Custom." When "Custom" is selected, a freeform text field and a pronoun field will appear.
Google's move to leave definition entirely to the individual recognizes the scope and fluidity of gender identity, but could also open the door to gender descriptions made only in jest.
The company is rolling out the feature for all users this week.