A February 2014 iteration of Facebook’s software upgraded the number of options for gender identification from 2 to 58. Drawing on critical theoretical approaches to technology, queer theory, and insights from science and technology studies, this iteration is situated within a 10-year history of software and user modifications that pivot around gender. I argue that the gender binary has regulated Facebook’s design strategy while the co-existence of binary and non-binary affordances has enabled the company to serve both users and advertising clients simultaneously. Three findings are revealed: (1) an original programming decision to store three values for gender in Facebook’s database became an important fissure for non-binary possibilities, (2) gender became increasingly valuable over time, and (3) in the deep level of the database, non-binary users are reconfigured into a binary system. This analysis also exposes Facebook’s focus on authenticity as an insincere yet highly marketable regulatory regime.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Advertising, application programming interface, code, database, gender binary, queer theory, social media software, sociotechnical, software-user relationship, transgender
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1177/1461444815621527
Journal New Media and Society
Bivens, R. (2017). The gender binary will not be deprogrammed: Ten years of coding gender on Facebook. New Media and Society, 19(6), 880–898. doi:10.1177/1461444815621527