Think Outside The Box: Forms

A national campaign for and by Non-Binary Gendered people.
This is a new campaign and the website is under construction; please bear with us.

Forms and non-binary gendered people

Forms and the two boxes of 'male' and 'female' was what started this whole Campaign off, but we have a lot more recommendations for forms than just providing sufficient gender answers. These are the same recommendations as used for the local campaign so may need updating and extending for the national campaign - if you have suggestions please contact us.

Recommendations for forms

  1. Do you need to ask about gender?

    Consider whether you should be asking about gender at all: there are a lot of situations where the question is not relevant. Gender is often included as a required question (e.g. on web forms) for no reason, which is unhelpful and intrusive. If the data will be put to good use - particularly for demographic purposes but then in the demographics section - then please continue to ask.

  2. What to ask for (gender, sex, legal gender...)?

    In the vast majority of cases you should just ask for gender.

    If this is not the case, think carefully about what it is you want to know, and where possible state your reason in the question. While many people will answer the same whichever of "gender", "sex", "legal gender", "biological sex", "genetic sex", etc. you ask about, transgender people might not. For example, a study into colour-blindness might wish to collect data on genetic sex rather than gender; some people present different genders depending on the situation.

    We recommend that you avoid asking for legal sex or legal gender if at all possible as it is ill-defined and invasive to non-binary-gendered people and trans people undergoing transition. If you do feel that it is necessary to ask, be especially clear about the context and consider asking for gender as well.

  3. How to ask about gender (or sex, etc).

    Once you have decided what to ask for, you need to provide a suitable range of responses. For instance, if you want to ask for gender for demographic purposes, within a clearly-labelled demographics section of the form you should have:

    Gender (for teaching purposes at this university):

    • Male
    • Female
    • Other, optionally please specify .................................. (with the field accepting at least 30 characters)
    • Prefer not to say

    This allows respondents to report their gender accurately should they so desire (please leave at least 30 characters for the "other" field). In line with other demographics such as ethnicity it also gives the option of not providing the data. Example code for use in building web forms is available from the website. Note that "transgender" should never be a distinct option for gender.

  4. How to ask about titles.

    When asking for someone's title - especially if you would normally use it to address mail - please allow a free-form response, including no title. This allows non-binary-gendered people to avoid use of a gendered title, makes provision for people with uncommon titles and those who prefer not to use a title (e.g. many Quakers and trans people).

  5. Pronouns and preferred names.

    We suggest that you ask for people's preferred name (if different from their legal name) and preferred pronouns (e.g. he/she/they/zie/eir), in addition to their gender. This is a fantastic way to welcome people as individuals and to respect their genders; it is especially important if you will be communicating over the phone or in person.

Send us examples

As with all areas of the Campaign we are looking for examples of good and bad practice, we want to be able to challenge organisations which are important to change (the Census 2011 branch of the Campaign does this) and hold up as examples and publicise organisations with good practice. Please do email us examples.