I'm trying to work out the wording for (preferably) a gender dropdown in a user profile of a site I'm working on. I want to be inclusive of people who don't gender orient to either male or female ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_identity ) but I don't want to use a textbox for this field because I'd still like to have some clear demographic data about the majority of my users who would like fall under the simple male/female heading.

If I use a text box I'd have to parse out a lot of "male", "MALE", "Man", "guy", etc. to get the clean data.

My thought was to just have a simple dropdown for "Gender: " with the options of "male", "female", and "other".

Is "other" an appropriate handling of this group? Is gender the right label for this field?

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    @JonasDralle I'm with you. The whole topic has spiraled out of control in today's society. I would edit your original comment to "99.999%". The rest is all social confusion. – plainclothes Jul 10 '15 at 18:43
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    Even if this only accommodates a small percentage of the general population it still has benefits. In some cases it can be interesting to get get information about the number of people in a large, general community who don't identify with traditional roles ALSO some communities will have a higher occurrence of non-traditional roles, so this could be a valuable thing to consider. – DorkRawk Jul 11 '15 at 0:02
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    Please keep your politics out of this question. The person asking wants to be inclusive of diverse gender identities. Saying that you don't approve of the idea is like answering a Mac tech support question with "you should use Linux". – kastark Oct 14 '15 at 16:23
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    How about Male, Female, and 'It's complicated' – aslum Oct 14 '15 at 16:29
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    @Mayo well if the question was "what genitals do you have" then the biology would apply but in this case it's asking about gender which there are more than binary male/female. According to this ABC article Facebook now gives users 58 gender choices (not the best source but it gives the idea there's more than 2 atleast). So even though you or I may think there should be more than the two there are more than 2 genders by many people's standards. – DasBeasto Oct 14 '15 at 18:54

I was having a discussion with my housemate who is a data analyst by trade, and the conclusion that we came to is that there are two sensible options here, depending on the amount of work you personally want to do (we're assuming here that the collection of gender data is actually useful to you, rather than simply of interest in which case it is almost always better to leave it out).

The simple option is to have three or four discrete options: Female, Male, Other, and possibly Prefer not to say. In my experience, this is the most acceptable option for gathering data while being both simple and inclusive - it acknowledges that there are people who don't fit the gender binary, allows users to select a different option, and doesn't overload your cisgendered users with lots of options. It also allows people to completely opt out if they really don't want to answer (the standard objection is that it'll negatively impact your data collection, but in practice it probably doesn't make much of a difference). Note that if gender identity is particularly important to your application, then this may not be the most sensible or inclusive option.

The ideal but more complex option is to have a textbox and suck it up - it's a data sanitisation problem. A simple find/replace on your dataset will be able to lump your users into a group of man/male/boy responses, a group of woman/female/girl responses, and a group of assorted other responses. Crucially if you're doing demographic analysis, whatever is left over probably isn't statistically significant at an individual level so in your analysis it is acceptable to put them in an internal Other category. You can then preserve that minority data for further study should you find you need it.

Alternatively, as noted in the comments, it may be possible to combine the two approaches. Once a user selects your Other option, you could then display a text box which allows them to specify their gender identity exactly. This has the benefit of minimising cognitive load on cisgendered users while also capturing specific minority data. The downsides are that you may still run into issues sanitising this data to make it useful, and your form must be able to handle revealing a hidden element.

Gender is the correct label for this field, from a descriptive point of view and from a data collection point of view. You'd be surprised how many people think it's hilarious to answer Sex: with "Yes please".

If you choose to go with the simple dropdown/radio button approach, then Other is probably the most appropriate label for the third group. It is easily understandable, and non-exclusive in terms of what it might represent. Transgender is probably not an appropriate label here unless you include additional ones because it excludes people outside the binary who are not transgender or who do not view the label as appropriate for them, and it doesn't actually tell you the respondent's gender (transgender just tells you their gender is not the same as their assigned sex at birth). The problem with the use of the word "other" is that it is exclusionary and can potentially feel like the user is being shoved into a box of leftovers - not an ideal experience! For that reason, a text box is probably preferred if you want to make sure you're being inclusive.

Think Outside The Box mirrors these recommendations and has some other interesting guidelines for form construction.

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    +1 for the "Yes please" response, do it every time. People should get their damn labels right. :D – TC1 Sep 18 '12 at 13:07
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    Ehhh the text box is a pain in the butt not only for you but for your users (if any actually care to read the Gender box). It's more than a data sanitisation problem, and it's not a sanitisation problem that's possible to solve 100%. – Ben Brocka Sep 18 '12 at 13:11
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    @PeterBagnall Gay and Bi aren't genders, they are sexual orientations. Neither are masculine or feminine, which are characteristics or traits. Male, Female, Agender, Genderqueer and so on are examples of genders. – kastark Sep 18 '12 at 17:27
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    Actually, you guys are hilariously wrong. If you're collecting data on sex/gender for demographic purposes, you're typically doing it so you can make predictions about what the groups do, or get insights into their behaviour. In this case it's unhelpful to ask about sex over gender; since sex is more physical than psychological, it is a strictly worse predictor of behaviour than gender is. This doesn't even begin to touch on the fact that telling a transgender person that their gender doesn't matter and that their biological sex is the thing you care about is both dehumanising and backwards. – kastark Sep 18 '12 at 23:32
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    Even if you don't buy the idea that gender is a better predictor of behaviour (and I think you'd be at best misguided to say it isn't), you're supposed to be UX people. Think about the users. – kastark Sep 18 '12 at 23:34

My recommendation is: leave the gender out of the form if you can. Only collect the user data you really need, and when you need it (Credit card data on payment, address on checkout and the like.).

But if you have to add something, you can do it like when creating a new Live-ID at Microsoft. They added "Not Specified" which work well if you don't want to add info:

enter image description here

  • The target audience for the site is pretty much the general public, so I don't assume there will be an over representation of non-traditional gender identity. I would like to have some basic gender data from my user base because the demographic info adds value for me. – DorkRawk Sep 18 '12 at 6:50
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    +1 for leaving it out if at all possible. – André Sep 18 '12 at 7:46
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    Just a note to add that gender has nothing to do with sexual orientation, so I'm confused why you've listed a range of orientations after the word. – kastark Sep 18 '12 at 10:05
  • @dhmholley True that. Wikipedia says:"Transgender" does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual. Maybe I'd revise my answer accordingly? – Benny Skogberg Sep 18 '12 at 10:07
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    @Benny. Sexual orientation and gender identity are generally regarded as orthogonal, at least in modern Western cultures. Other cultures divide the labels up differently. In other words "Transgender (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual)" is about as relevant as "Transgender (blonde, brunette, or ginger)". – TRiG Sep 18 '12 at 13:53

I such cases I always say: look if there's an ISO standard. There is one: ISO 5218

ISO/IEC 5218 Information technology — Codes for the representation of human sexes is an international standard that defines a representation of human sexes through a language-neutral single-digit code. It can be used in information systems such as database applications. The four codes specified in ISO/IEC 5218 are:

0 = not known,
1 = male,
2 = female,
9 = not applicable.
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    This is nice if you're categorizing people based on what you know, but it's not human; "Other" is much more applicable than "Not known" (they know, it's just not on your form) and "not applicable" (which becomes your "other"). – Ben Brocka Sep 18 '12 at 13:13
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    You can use this system on the back-end and map it to a more human presentation on the front-end. It turns out it maps perfectly to dhmholley's answer of Female, Male, Other, and Prefer Not to Say. – Evan Sep 18 '12 at 13:56
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    That's really useful, but doesn't answer the gender question, it's for sexes, which is not the same thing as gender. who.int/gender/whatisgender/en – Peter Bagnall Sep 18 '12 at 15:16
  • This is pretty interesting, but I agree that it doesn't solve the representation of gender. Is anyone aware if ISO is working on a gender standard, or if there is an officially or widely supported standard that is specific to gender? It seems that vCard has a solid gender identification with "other", but of course it's part of a larger spec. – Nick McCurdy Jul 25 '16 at 4:51

I believe that there is an emerging standard around this issue, I seem to recall that our U.S. based payroll software was required to list M, F, and N. However, I cannot locate any external reference for that convention.

The Australian government uses X, and at least one transgender resource site uses a more complicated set of options:


But, according to IU U.S. "Federal reporting requirements only provide for male or female", though there is some indication that the National Institutes of Health recommend other options.

As others have mentioned you need to carefully consider your use for this information, and if you will ever be sharing it with any 3rd party which may have a standard already in place.

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    According to internationalspectrum.umich.edu/life/definitions. "Queer" (more accurately "genderqueer" for this question) isn't really a good option because for one it is a blanket term for not falling into male or female, so fairly redundant if you have intersex and androgyne choices. Also as it says it can be an offensive term to some. – DasBeasto Oct 14 '15 at 16:50

“Other” is weird. The third sex ? Put a blank choice, “Male”, and “Female”. By doing so, you leave the user the liberty of not responding to your question. This liberty is particularly welcomed for the users who do not find the choice they want in your two choices “Male”, “Female”.

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    -1 You might consider "other" to be wierd, for some people however, being asked to identify themselves as either of the choices you listed is equally wierd. Adding an extra option fills the additional use-case. – Racheet Oct 29 '13 at 9:53
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    @Racheet — I think you have misunderstood my answer. I am for putting a third choice but not calling it “Other”. – Nicolas Barbulesco Dec 14 '13 at 19:08

A new german law has introduced the gender "Intersex" as a third option. I sounds in my humble opionion better than "Others". "Others" implies a distance between men/women and the rest.

More about the law and the details behind it: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/third-gender-option-in-germany-a-small-step-for-intersex-recognition-a-917650.html

  • This is interesting. This “Intersex” choice is far from perfect, but it is nicer than “Other”. – Nicolas Barbulesco Dec 14 '13 at 19:10
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    Intersex is not a gender. Intersex is a biological sex. Gender is your identity and expression, sex is biology. – Yvonne Aburrow Feb 19 '16 at 11:19

One option that avoids finding an acceptable label for “other” has not been mentioned yet:

You can use a linear scale, e.g. a slider, with three or five states, the outermost ones being ♂/male/man and ♀/female/woman. You cannot easily cover “undisclosed” or the like this way, though. Sexuality, if ever asked for, should be done in a similar way, but consists of several scalars, most prominently: heterosexual…homosexual, asexual…hypersexual and cissexual…transsexual.

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    Nice idea with the slider! It won't cover such options as bigenders, fluids and agenders, though. This being said, I love the concept of continuity and non-binary-ness of a slider. – Zoe K Oct 14 '15 at 18:28
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    Gender is not really a spectrum between male and female though - we tend to assume that they are polar opposites at either end of a spectrum, but that is an arbitrary notion. Gender identity is best thought of as a scatterplot. – Yvonne Aburrow Nov 24 '16 at 17:03

It seems wise to me to provide a way to both provide the most common options, and allow a freeform (or at least "other") option, as well as a "no comment" option.

For example, a current Seattle Department of Transportation questionnaire about street paving asks this:

What gender do you identify with?
Transgender or genderqueer
I'd rather not say
Optional Self-Identification [text box]

It seems a bit off-topic that they ask that at all, but at least you can leave it blank or prefer not to say.


"Other" is perfectly adequate. The reason for this is that, for those who do not accept that there are two sexes, the number of potential options will always be too small. If you include "queer", "transsexual", and "genderless", you will get someone complaining that you didn't include "ladyboy" or "hermaphrodite". If you include those, someone will whine that you didn't include "Lunarian" and "two-spirit". It's a bottomless rabbit hole.

Stick to "Male", "Female", and "Other", and if they select "Other", they can enter in their specific flavor if they wish, although for your data-keeping purposes, they can just be classified as other. As others have said, they will probably amount to less than a percent of your user base, unless this is a specific interest site, so don't sweat these edge cases too much.

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