I've been busy recently, a new job, a number of summer-time social engagements, and obligatory family visits, which means I haven't been keeping up with the world wide web. It specifically means that I haven't been logging into Facebook, so it was a while (a month, at least) before I was personally faced with the small box at the top of my login page asking me to choose one of the following:

a) popularqueer updated her profile.
b) popularqueer updated his profile.

At the same time that Facebook was asking me to choose a gender, my new job was telling me I had to assign genders to other people, people I’d never met, people I had never seen a picture of, based solely on their name. It was explained to me that it was very important for our data wrangling and the database as a whole to include a gender marker for each entry, even if a gender was not specified. I don’t think my boss would believe me if I told her that I was uncomfortable assigning gender without consent or consultation.

The punch line to this story is that in the same week that Facebook and my job collide I had to add myself to the database. Both asked me the same question: What are you? Him or her, m or f, and in a typical fashion I refuse to answer, leaving both of my entries incomplete.

With my incomplete profiles it’s a good thing I’m not a NBC news anchor or reporter, because I would cease to exist. Of course this comment leads back to work, which is not a place I thought I would spend afternoons contemplating gender in the glow of computer monitors. This job of mine involves a good amount of internet research, most of which is dull and filled with web pages that take entirely too much time to load. When I settle in, waiting for a video to load, or the most recent news update, I actually take in what’s on my screen. It is a moment like this when I notice that at the top of my open web browser reads: “NBC New York, NY female and male news anchors.”

Yes, that is correct; NBC has female and male anchors. I almost laughed out loud reading it, thinking to myself, there must be another page for the trans and gender non-conforming anchors, knowing that was not true.

Instantly I wanted to know who decided that all web pages listing NBC affiliate anchors and reporters should mark these individuals linguistically as male and female, as if there might be some confusion about the photos that follow. As if there was not already a highly gendered system of categorization in place. I cannot think of a time that I have turned on a major network and not been faced with an anchor or reporter who did not fit into a traditional gender presentation, but maybe I just haven’t watched enough TV. You can imagine the page that follows: men with short traditional haircuts, wearing blazers and ties and women with a little too much blush, hair that falls into that acceptable range of lengths (from long to less long) and tasteful jewelry; tiled one after another in neat little squares, a visual matrix of what makes a news anchor. No chubby cheeked, nerd glasses-wearing, non-conforming faces in sight.

Facebook doesn't want to be as cut and dry as NBC, they are allowing users to choose to ignore the question, and remove gender from their profiles, but they are still implying that gender as a question can only be answered two ways. In Facebook’s attempt to gain mastery over foreign languages, languages that rely more heavily on gender-related syntax, they are transitioning from gender neutral to gendered pronouns. I have to admit that I’m angry about the change, about the confrontation, thought slightly intrigued by the presentation. Facebook isn’t explicitly asking for your gender or even the gendered pronoun you necessarily “prefer”, but which term is the most correct, whatever correct means. They aren’t forcing me to say, “I am male”; they are asking me to choose the most applicable pronoun, and as a person who only uses gendered pronouns because they are a cultural default I choose to remain with the Facebook default, themself. And I don’t really care if it’s grammatically incorrect.

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