Facebook has introduced custom gender options, instead of forcing people to choose between ‘male’ and ‘female’.

The change, currently being rolled out for users, will make Facebook more accessible for non-binary trans people and for intersex people, who were previously forced to either pick a gender, or to not list a gender at all.

The social media network will allow more than 50 different gender options, including androgynous, bigender, intersex, genderfluid and transsexual.

Users also can separately indicate whether they want to be referred to as he, she or they.

Trans Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison told Associated Press: “There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world.

“All too often transgender people like myself and other gender nonconforming people are given this binary option, do you want to be male or female? What is your gender? And it’s kind of disheartening because none of those let us tell others who we really are. This really changes that, and for the first time I get to go to the site and specify to all the people I know what my gender is.”

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Centre, said : “We applaud Facebook for making it possible for people to be their authentic selves online.”

The idea of expanding gender choices percolated at Facebook for about a year and started to come to fruition during an in-house brainstorming four months ago, project manager Lexi Ross said.

Transgender activists have campaigned for Facebook to make the change for several years.

Previously, they had maintained that custom gender options would be too technically difficult to implement, and would be abused.

To prevent abuse, the new system does not allow people to create their own gender identities, limiting them to a pre-selected list.