Sunil Babu Pant, a prominent lawmaker and gay rights activist in Nepal, has asked Facebook to include a third gender option for people who identify themselves as neither male nor female. He has written to Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the hopes to get the social network to an option called "third gender" or "other." He is looking to protect the rights of individuals who consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI).
Pant worries that intersex people can feel outcast by Facebook's options. He said he has not received a response from Facebook but is still hopeful he will. Pant is the only openly gay parliament member in Nepal, and he happens to be the founder and director of the Blue Diamond Society, which describes itself as "Nepal's first LGBTI rights organization." The supreme court in Nepal has backed a move to recognise LGBTI people as equal and that "gender identity should be based on self-identification," according to IBTimes.
Here is the full letter:
Mark Zuckerberg Facebook, Inc. 1 Hacker Way Menlo Park, CA 94025
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
My name is Sunil Babu Pant. I am the founder and director of Blue Diamond Society, Nepal’s first LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) rights organization.
In just eleven years, Blue Diamond Society has achieved incredible success advocating for the rights of LGBTI people. This is due, in part, to the fact that Nepal is a country that celebrates diversity, and, in part, to the bravery and tenacity of Blue Diamond Society staff and volunteers.
In 2007, the Supreme Court of Nepal responded positively to a case Blue Diamond Society brought before it. We asked the Court to find that LGBTI people are equal, and that gender identity should be based only on self-identification. They decided positively on both counts – and now we are working to implement the policies.
I write today as an avid user and admirer of Facebook. Your product has revolutionized the way we communicate and express ourselves around the world. It has brought communities together which were otherwise thousands of miles apart, and resulted in collaboration and partnerships which have improved the world.
However people who do not identify as male or female continue to be sidelined by Facebook’s options. As you allow users to identify only as male or female, many in the LGBTI community feel as if they are hidden on the site, unable to identify as their true selves.
In Nepal, we have been working with the government to improve this identity-based access to documentation and civic participation. The Government of Nepal is working to implement a third gender option, labeled “other,” on all official forms and registers.
I encourage you to do the same, for the sake of respect for gender-variant people around the world who want to socialize, organize, and be a part of your 21st century internet revolution. I encourage Facebook to celebrate diversity.
Please let me know if I can help in the process.
Kind regards, Sunil B. Pant Executive Director Blue Diamond Society www.bds.org.np
In February 2011, Facebook added two new gay relationship status options: "in a civil union" and "in a domestic partnership." Will the company take it a step further?
I have contacted Facebook about this issue and will update you if I hear back.
Update at 6:00 PM PST: It appears Facebook won't be adding this option any time soon and is still looking at its options. "People can already opt out of showing their sex on their profile," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "We're constantly innovating on our products and features and we welcome input from everyone as we explore ways to improve the Facebook experience."
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