When designing a form that asks for a person's gender, should I take any special consideration for hermaphrodites or trans-gendered persons, or is M/F good enough?

Is defaulting the gender offensive to some persons?

  • Defaulting to one gender is bad. – awe Jan 18 '11 at 21:20
  • M/F/SNL's Pat ;-) – Drew Jan 20 '11 at 13:08
  • What I mostly like about the English language is that you can get away with almost everything without using the person's gender, as long as you phrase it correctly.. at least that's what I do. – Asaf Feb 10 '11 at 19:40
  • @Asaf don't say that over on the English Language stack exchange, they'll think you're a troll. – Incognito Feb 10 '11 at 19:56

Male / Female / No Answer is probably better. No Answer will cover both cases : i) The person does not wish to disclose or ii) the other answers do not suit the person, and is less awkward than Male / Female / Other

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    I agree with the "No Answer". I think the usual thing on the answer is "Decline to answer". That's what I was trying to get at with "Other" – Piers Karsenbarg Jan 17 '11 at 23:49
  • I agree. There is very little, subtle difference between "Decline to answer" and "No answer"... I felt that somehow 'No answer' sounds a bit more peaceful/calm (I am not getting the right word :) than 'Decline to answer'. – JP19 Jan 18 '11 at 2:01
  • 'less loud' is what I wanted to say. – JP19 Jan 18 '11 at 2:17
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    Now the question is, if people are allowed to give no answer, why ask them in the first place? – DisgruntledGoat Jan 18 '11 at 10:41
  • @JP19: I feel just the reverse... – Charles Jun 22 '11 at 14:16

You could put Male/Female/Do not wish to disclose (or something along those lines)

Due to government forms that only specify M/F, I think that most have decided on what gender they are (most trans I've met have), but it might be an idea to give the third option.

It's a similar issue as with titles. If you want to include everyone then you're going to need a large list of titles.

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    I agree. It's best to include an option to not respond, or maybe an "Other" option. – heyman Jan 17 '11 at 16:19
  • You really think Male / Female / Other is suitable for a gender dropdown? – Tim Fountain Jan 17 '11 at 16:35
  • Do you have another suggestion? – Piers Karsenbarg Jan 17 '11 at 23:48

That's entirely up to you and your audience. If you believe that hermaphrodites and/or trans-gendered persons are going to make up a sizable portion of your audience then you should be more attentive to their needs and concerns. Also, if you offer some kind of functionality that is gender-related then you may want to drill a little deeper then "boy" or "girl".

Most websites, and most forms both paper and web, offer two options as they represent the overwhelming vast majority of people out there. It's safe to assume that most hermaphrodites and trans-gendered persons are used to seeing those as their only two options and will select the most appropriate one for them.

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You could make the gender field a text input instead of a dropdown so that they feel free to describe themselves however they want. You'll need to check the database to translate this into whatever you want, e.g. currently male or female, in code.

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    I'm afraid that would lead to too much garbage input, or things that might not be easy to sort through. Translating raw input is easy in the easy cases, but we all know users do crazy things. I can see it now, Gender: Same as my brother! Hahaha! showing up in my database. – Incognito Jan 17 '11 at 16:41
  • Apart from garbage input, also more work for user. Forms should be as short, sweet and quick to fill as possible. – JP19 Jan 18 '11 at 2:02

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