E-campaigning forum email list demographics

Trans/genderqueer friendly survey/user data capture methodology

For a number of years I’ve been naming and shaming websites which force you to choose from binary gender options (male/female). This is because some people aren’t male or female, or don’t really want to tell a website which they are. They might be genderqueer, somewhere in-between or outside of these definitions, or identify as trans, or a trans-man or a trans-woman (I realise many trans people identify as male/female and are happy to select from binary options, but also some people simply identify as trans- etc.).

When I’ve been involved in website builds which have user data capture, and gender has been one of the requested fields by the client, I’ve previously had male/female/other options. The same for surveys.

Another point on survey design is that you should put the personal demographic questions at the end – it’s been proven that asking people their demographics at the start has an impact on how they answer the questions – they end up answering more like the stereotype of their demographic.

Anyway, it was pointed out recently via the E-Campaigning Forum list user profile set up, by someone whose partner is a trans guy with survey design experience:

“One small thing: the use of ‘other’ in gender is great, but I’d recommend instead of ‘other’ (which makes people feel different or not normal) something like ‘neither of these best represents my gender’.”

This is very interesting and a good point on the word ‘other’.

However, the “Neither of these best represents my gender” feels like a bit of a mouthful, and still has a negative word, ‘neither’.

Duane Raymond at Fairsay took this a step further and put, “My gender is best represented as…” [input box]. Great!

Alternatively, it could just be one input box with no pre-defined selections. Would make analysis a bit harder but not too hard.

Any other ideas?

5 thoughts on “Trans/genderqueer friendly survey/user data capture methodology

  1. Chris Limb says:

    Perhaps an input box with google-type suggestions/autocomplete (populated by a list which includes female, male, neither, other etc) which would help with analysis but allow people to type whatever they wanted?

  2. Rob Pearson says:

    Hi Beth.

    Amazingly timely post for me. I’m working on a project for a LGBT rights charity at the moment and I’ve just written a survey for their membership.

    The format of the gender question we finally arrived at after a bit of back and forth with the stakeholders was:

    What is your gender?
    – male
    – female
    – if you prefer to use your own term please provide this here…

    Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were assigned at birth?
    – yes
    – no

    So two questions rather than one big list. I like this format as it gives users a full range of choice without overloading the interface with options.

    I also asked users to identify their sexual orientation. I wanted to know if the site’s non-LGBT audience had different content priorities than LGBT visitors, and I also thought that the site might want to communicate differently to this audience. Also, as I know you know, you never really know where the insights might come from in a survey. I wanted to retain the ability to segment as much as possible.

    That said, I felt on thinner ice asking this question and I half expected the stakeholders to reject it. I can’t think of a single other survey I’ve written where it would be relevant. Thankfully they were okay with it, and here’s the format we arrived at:

    What is your sexual orientation?
    – Bisexual
    – Gay man
    – Gay woman / lesbian
    – Heterosexual / straight
    – Other (please specify)…

    SO …I could have done better with the “other” as per your suggestion. I continue to learn…

    I didn’t know demographic questions at the start would influence respondents, but it makes total sense. Like the gender priming maths test experiment http://ambadylab.stanford.edu/pubs/2006Steele.pdf. It’s a great tip.

    Having said that, I put my demographic questions at the end anyway. I figure that users are tired of answering by the end of the survey, so give them simple questions that require no reflection at this point. I try to put the harder questions at the start when respondents are still fresh and willing. Hopefully this reduces attrition. So, demographics at the end is a double win.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

  3. Interesting points about demographics, hadn’t thought of it from that perspective. Completion rates can be higher when demographic questions are at the end, presumably as questions that relate to why the person has chosen to respond to the survey coming first means motivation is higher http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/apl/75/3/354/

  4. Claire Gowler says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this same issue, partially because of my own gender identity but also because I work at a digital agency and want to help them be inclusive to all gender identities. I think ‘What gender do you identify as?’ can be a good way to put it. I think open text boxes are the most inclusive way but then you leave yourself open to spam answers and it can be harder to pull that data for analysis. I wrote my thoughts on the subject on the company blog: http://www.yoomee.com/how-to-ask-about-gender I’m still thinking a lot about it, it’s a difficult question!

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