It's pretty safe to say that Google has struggled to distinguish its social network from its infinitely more popular competitors. Now Google+ has taken an bold step in aligning itself with LGBTQ issues by allowing its social network users to define their gender identity themselves.
Facebook expanded the gender options available to users in June, but the list only includes 71 choices. Google, on the other hand, believes that people should be allowed to come up with their own individual gender identities. It now also allows people to select their own preferred use of pronoun.
Google software engineer Rachael Bennett announced the change in a blog post: "I'm proud to announce that Google+ will support an infinite number of ways to express gender identity, by giving you the option to customize the way your gender is represented on your profile. Previously, we provided options for 'Male', 'Female', and 'Other', to encompass both those who don't fit into the traditional gender labels and those who don't want to declare their gender to the world at large."
"Now, the gender field on your profile will contain four entries, 'Male', 'Female', 'Decline to state', and 'Custom'. When 'Custom' is selected, a freeform text field and a pronoun field will appear. You can still limit who can see your gender, just like you can now."
While the Google+ update may go unnoticed by many users, the inclusive move not only keeps the network up to date with transitions in gender identity and expression, but allows for a fluidity that should be available to everyone. Is this enough to dislodge other social networks from the top of the tree? Probably not. But for LGBTQ people, it's a much-needed step in the right direction.