Yesterday I wrote an article about how Sunil Babu Pant, a prominent lawmaker and gay rights activist in Nepal, sent a letter to Facebook asking if the social network could add a third sex option for people who identify as neither male nor female. Pant asked Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for to an option called "third gender" or "other."
Facebook got back to me a few hours later with a statement implying there were currently no plans to add such an option, and that individuals can instead opt out of showing their sex on their profile. I updated my story with the statement and said the company is clearly still weighing its options.
This morning I received a tip (thanks Kathmandu Observer!) informing me that Pant saw my story and the statement. He was very displeased. In fact, he was so displeased that he disabled his Facebook account in protest (as you can see in the screenshot above). Here's what he wrote in a blog post titled "Sunil Babu Pant Deactivates Facebook Account In Protest:
On March 22nd, I wrote an open letter to one of the most powerful businessmen the world has ever known, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of facebook, the world’s most popular website. My request was simple: allow people who do not identify as male or female equal opportunity to express themselves by adding an "other" option under sex on facebook profiles.
I have received no reply, which is really disappointing. Many journalists have written to facebook as well, and looking at the blog below, reading Facebook's irresponsible remarks saying "People can already opt out of showing their sex on their profile," shows Facebook is not respecting human diversity and still forcing third genders and gender variant people to be invisible. This is outrageous and unacceptable. And like to say to the Facebook that "Yes we also have a choice to opt out from the Facebook altogether".
Until Facebook changes its position I am deactivating my Facebook account for now and if the genuine demand is not considered I will leave Facebook for good.
Thank you everyone for your support and solidarity.
Pant has historically protected the rights of individuals who consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI). In this case he wants to protect the rights of those who don't want to list their sex as male or female. Unfortunately, I don't think disabling his account will help him reach that goal.
Facebook has received complaints about this issue before and it looks like the company just isn't ready yet to offer a solution (internal conversations about the issue are still ongoing). This is because adding a third sex option would require a substantial amount of work involving highly complex systems, or so I'm told.
I have contacted Facebook again and will update you if I hear back.
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