Gender is not a boolean

15 May 2014

Choose your favorite color:

  • Eggshell
  • Yellow with green dots

This sounds silly, doesn't it? Where is my color? Why only those two? And if you only give those two possible answers in a form to choose from in a web app, some people will get really mad and would try to create an internet shitstorm to get that changed. "Please add at least Rosso corsa!! That's the best color!! #colorgate"

But when it comes to gender, for most people it is totally okay to just ask: male or female. If you search for gender on StackOverflow, you will see lots of questions how to store it in the database. And sadly most answers only think of male and female. Two settings. Sounds legit for a boolean. Male = true and female = false. Done.

That is so wrong on so many levels, it's not even funny.

There are lots of people out there that can't or don't want to specify their gender to either of those sides. Why should they? Why should we force that on them? Some people love yellow with green dots. There is nothing wrong with that. There is so much more than just black and white when it comes to most things. Gender is not a boolean.

Sadly there many idiots out there without a proper understanding of the topic. When I tweeted this last week:

Small reminder: gender is not a boolean field. Leave room in your form for everyone!

there were lots of bad reactions. This for example:

it is only important if you can get an advantage from either one. Sometimes it is just about pure attention.

Luckily Oliver Klee answered this to that person:

It's about defining one's own indentity and about being recognized in that identity, not about attention.

and

It's actually quite simple: A person's rights or pay should not depend on their gender. And gender is more than just m/w.

Let's stop this. Right now. Create a welcoming app. Starting at the sign up form.

For the eurucamp Call for Proposal app, we choosed to have a select box with the following entries:

  • (leave empty)
  • Male
  • Female
  • I don't identify with any of the other options

It's as simple as that. Or you could go a step further: let the users specify what they want to be called.

  • Don't want to say
  • Male
  • Female
  • ______________

This should cost you 5 minutes more when creating that form. But it will be worth it. Thanks!

Btw: bitcrowd has gender neutral restrooms and is hiring.

comments powered by Disqus