Gender & UX

I recently had a customer request to capture Gender when customers are signing up to a mailing list. This lead me to question whether or not you really need to capture gender for many, if any, valid reasons.

Ignoring that question, if we do genuinely need to capture gender for some reason, the next question is what inputs are valid for the best UX. 

Gender is a problematic when someone is being signed up by a third party. Does the customer service rep ask the individual in front of them "what is your gender?" or do they simple guess based on what the individual looks like / is wearing? If the individual then receives a communication indicating the wrong gender then that is a horrible user experience. 

Getting back to the sign up process - what genders should be an option. 

My original thoughts were "Male" "Female" "Other" and "Not Specified" with the default being Not Specified. This field should also be optional, rather than mandatorily requiring a response other than "Not Specified". I then spoke to a trans-friend who enlightened me on the "Non-Binary" option. After some research I decided that the option other should be replaced with non-binary. The most flexible solution, that would provide the best UX would be to enable users to enter whatever they like, but as a third party would be entering this information closed options were required. 

I then had to create my user story for the wall: "R wants to enter a non-binary gender so that...", however I wasn't quite sure how to end that sentence. I opened it up to twitter, and received some interesting responses:

  • so that our app is more inclusive and insured against potential future changes to the discrimination act

  • so that all users can give a correct answer

  • so that they can express gender in a way that is authentically true for them

  • so that they choose how their gender is defined without adhering to outdated binary options

  • so that they can be whatever the *&@! they want

The next difficult thing was going to be explaining to the developers why this was important. 

I appealed to the legal aspect, that we have to do this so we aren't discriminatory, to the number of trans and inter-sex individuals in Australia and to the fact that Australian passports accept genders of Male, Female and X so that we should too. 


Read what we learned a few months down the track: UX IS ABOUT HUMAN EXPERIENCES