Web developers, other people creating account registration forms, people gathering personal data for other reasons like doctor’s offices, etc:
Are you asking people to supply their gender? If you don’t need that information, don’t ask for it. Don’t worry that “most sites collect that information” – if you’re not planning to sell peoples’ info to marketing companies (you’re not, right?), it’s likely that you don’t need their gender. Gender tells you SO MUCH less about a person than other, better questions*.
If you MUST ask for people’s gender, I suggest a few different techniques:
-an open field for people to fill in gender in their own words
-the ability to check more than one box
-a “prefer to not answer”.
If you have a drop down menu, here is what I feel is the bare minimum for what is *necessary*:
-prefer to not answer
That covers most people (non-binary is a pretty big umbrella that a lot of people stand under), and gives people the ability to not say, which you really should give them.
Do you need to know if any of your respondents are transgender, for social study purposes? Do ***NOT*** do this:
Trans people are often on the gender binary – you’re forcing someone to choose between a social term indicating a change in gender identity from gender assigned at birth, and their gender. Instead, try:
Are you literally someone’s doctor? Do you literally need to know what their genitals looks like? Are you interested in also respecting their current gender? Try:
-assigned male at birth, non-binary
-assigned female at birth, non-binary
-intersex, identifies as female
-intersex, identifies as male
-intersex, identifies as non-binary
Oooh, that’s a lot of fields. This might be where checking off multiple boxes is helpful!
“but Galia, this still leaves some room for not knowing exactly what someone’s genitals look like!” “well, strawman, if you’re not literally their doctor, you don’t have to know. If you are their doctor, you should have a frank and respectful conversation about their body, take appropriate notes, and go from there. And if you are their doctor, and you’re just giving them a flu shot, you also don’t need to talk about their genitals.”
Are you in a position where you need to minimize cognitive load on people who believe in the gender binary? That does happen sometimes – I’m not judging you if you’re in the awkward position of wanting to respect non cis-folks, but are also working for a staunch conservative who thinks gender options are for snowflakes. Try:
-[text box, only available if you click ‘other’]
This helps with data sanitization, which a text box would muddle/make difficult (male, Male, Man, boy, etc). You only have to group and sanitize data from folks who pick “other”.
Gosh, and then another question: why are you using “male” and “female” and not “man” and “woman”? I’ve blogged about that before, so I won’t drag on about it again, but ask yourself why using clinical terms is necessary? If all of your respondents are 18+, it’s likely that “man” and “woman” will work for them better than “male” and “female”.
Tl;dr – gender is complicated, and I’ll bet your drop-down menu doesn’t do it justice.
*If you’re wondering what those better questions are, well, it depends on what your website or form is for. Let me know if you want to remove gender from your form, and need help coming up with a replacement question that will give you good information about a person.