Facebook wants you to be able to "better express your own identity," so the network is adding a range of gender options for American users for whom male and female don't apply.
The move came after months of consulting with LGBT advocacy groups in the U.S. to figure out the 50-something terms from which you can choose. Facebook told the Associated Press that it plans to roll out similar options internationally after working with groups to nail down country-specific and culturally appropriate selections.
To change your Facebook gender, go to your Timeline and click update info at the bottom of your cover photo. Update your basic information, which will let you choose between male, female, and "custom." Once you select custom, you can start typing your identity of choice--and there are dozens to choose from--and then change your preferred pronoun to she, he, or they.
Facebook uses gender as a way to target ads to you--if you identify as a woman in a relationship, you can expect a lot of engagement ring and wedding dress ads, hooray!--and that won't change. But if you choose a custom gender, the ads will rely on your chosen pronoun to target you. Maybe brands will actually put some effort into gender-neutral advertising, which would be refreshing, so we'll see less ads rely on the old "ladies love shoes and diamonds" trope. (I know, it's unlikely, but we can dream.)
The Associated Press noted that changing gender is not a life event that will be published to your Timeline or in your News Feed, and advertisers will not be able to target users based on a gender change. Users can also choose who they share their gender information with, in case there are concerns about privacy.
Alex Schultz, Facebook's director of growth, told the Associated Press that there was "no debate within Facebook about the social implications at all. It was simple: Not allowing people to express something so fundamental is not really cool, so we did something."