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I'm wondering if anyone has encountered gender neutral requests on their websites and what they have done to accommodate being non-binary.

We have had one customer request the use of the MX title and discussions are underway to allow this experience. However, I'm made aware of the back-end we have to classify people as either male or female due to third-party suppliers for ferries etc - I manage the UX for a travel website so as you can imagine we link with a lot of third parties.

Has anyone encountered this issue or able to offer related article links to this.

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  • Mr. / Ms. / Mx. sounds specific enough? After all, especially for a travel agency, there's not much use to it other than letterheads. Unless you also manage toilet accommodations.
    – user68158
    Jul 10 '18 at 8:29
  • I don't understand why you need to ask for gender so people can travel on ferries. Jul 10 '18 at 19:37
  • @Levano our accommodations do have on-site toilet and shower facilities so this could cause an issue.
    – Keith
    Jul 11 '18 at 8:54
  • @KenMohnkern we operate with insurance companies as well for travel insurance. So we want to be inclusive, but we also face many legal issues with requiring our customers to determine what their sex is based on their UK passport and insurance.
    – Keith
    Jul 11 '18 at 8:55
  • Understood, @K.J. I ask because a lot of forms ask for gender when that info is irrelevant. Jul 11 '18 at 12:59
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I must say, this is an extremely interesting question / problem. You are momentarily put in a tough spot. On one side you want to include all users, while at the other side you need to keep the whole process of buying a ticket smooth so other users will not experience any hiccups.

As one of the early adopters you (and maybe people that read this) are facing a few obstacles.

Laws are part of the problem

One of the first obstacles and probably an important one is the law in your country. In most country's the law is lagging behind customs. The third party suppliers you speak of might be required by law to define a passenger as male/female according to their passport. So even if they want to implement the changes, they can not because of the law.

What can you do?

Personally I did not have this problem yet. The place I work do not have any forms where it is necessary to fill out your gender. I found a long article about gender in forms, it is a long read but worth it.

Now in the article there is an example that looks promising. Take a look: Part 1

The first part is them being honest, I believe this is one of the best things to do. You can explain your situation in a hover like they do above. Now how do they solve the problem. You can see it in this GIF(mirror). Part 2

What to watch out for

I think that being honest is extremely important. However, there might be consequences if you add this option. One of them is that the user can blame your company when there is some bigotry down the line.

The user confides their identity in you and expects you to guard that identity for them during the whole sale process. However, when down the road (at their holiday destination) they experience bigotry (or some other problems) they feel left out because they thought you had their back.

If you wish to read more, Meera Balarajan, Michelle Gray and Martin Mitchell did extensive research on how to ask the question of gender when monitoring diversity.

I have a friend that is fairly active in the LGBTQ+ community, when I see him I will ask his opinion and edit my answer.

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  • This is very informative and I like the different ways of presenting the information. Thank you Kevin.
    – Keith
    Jul 16 '18 at 12:29
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I deal with genomic information, so it's slightly different, but there's still a need to record people's sex where it's not quite as simple as 'male' or 'female'. Anyway, I've generally gone for three fields:

  • XX (female)
  • XY (male)
  • Other

I display a text box if someone selects "Other" so that the exact sex (46X, XXY, ...) can be entered if required.

I guess something like that would probably work in your case. In a person's chromosomal sex - I imagine in that gender neutral space too - that there's a lot of subtlety & variation. For your purposes, it's helpful to group them all together as "people who don't conform to predefined genders". For their purposes, it's important that you get their gender right as it's (most likely) an important part of their identity. That approach gives you both.

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Let them choose whatever they want on the initial form. When you know the details of what the specific third-party supplier requires, then explain that to them and let them choose again. For example, the user chooses "Mx" on the initial form, but then when a specific 3rd-party supplier is chosen that requires "M" or "F", you explain that this particular supplier requires the binary choice and allow them to choose. If the specific 3rd-party supplier supports "Mx", then you safely skip the extra step.

The beauty of this solution is that you only have to ask the user to make a binary choice for those suppliers that require it. For those that don't, the experience is efficient and what the user expects. Also, by asking a 2nd time based on the 3rd-party supplier the user must deal with, you have a chance to deflect the user's aggravation to that 3rd party, which is fair since it really is their fault. Finally, as more 3rd parties support non-binary options, the number of situations where you have to ask for gender information a second time will diminish over time.

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