Facebook recently added two new relationship status options that are intended to offer the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community classification choices that more accurately describe their personal relationships. You may now choose to classify yourself as “in a civil union” or “in a domestic partnership”. Facebook decided to respond to the needs of their users in the United States and in other countries where same sex marriages are illegal. The standard status options of single, married, in a relationship, it’s complicated, in an open relationship, separated, divorced and widowed made some users feel left out and marginalized. Many view this modification as a step in the right direction for LGBT acceptance and equality. These new status options allow everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, to express the true nature of their relationship without ambiguity.
The problem for some in the LGBT community is that they don’t want to be classified differently from their heterosexual peers. The general goal of this community is to be recognized in the same way that their fellow citizens are. Marriage equality is something that this community has been fighting for during the past few decades. Having a status that says “in a civil union” or “in a domestic partnership” only highlights the fact that these relationships are not legally equal or recognized with all the rights of traditional male and female marriages. These status indicators may reflect the reality of the times but may not point toward full acceptance.
Many gay and lesbian couples who define their relationship based on the old options may not want to update their status because they feel that they are already “married” or “in a relationship” and want to be referred to in that way. For some people these new indicators are a step down in comparison to the way they feel about their relationship and the hope that they have for equal recognition. The LGBT community would rather remove the distinctions that separate them from everyone else in favor of a legal system that views them as individuals outside of just their sex.
Facebook is apparently remaining in the middle-of-the-road. While not overtly advocating for equal marriage rights, Facebook has sent the message that all their users are important and should therefore be treated in a courteous and sensitive manner. The fact that these status options are politically correct means that Facebook doesn’t necessarily appear to be taking a significant stand. I believe that this is the safest position for Facebook because of the wide variety and background of their users. Facebook should toe the line in order to be trusted as impartial in this situation. These indicators are a starting point from which others may jump off. As times change and mindsets become altered, these calculated steps may be looked back on as huge stepping stones.
There are many LGBT people in American and around the world that will not use these status indicators for fear of violence, bullying and familial disapproval. My hope is that these Facebook relationship status options will help to increase tolerance, open mindedness and sensitivity around the world.