Earlier today I had to complete a survey as part of one of our initiatives at work. It was conducted by an outside service provider. The very first question had to do with demographics. You know, the usual, age range, job title, industry, sector, yadda, yadda, yadda. And of course, a question on gender. When I clicked on the drop down box, there was the usual choices. However, there were a total of seven choices including “prefer not to disclose”. However, there were two that jumbed out, “transgendered woman” & “transgendered man”. Hmmm.
Now, this is interesting. What do I do.? I actually wasn’t sure. And that surprised me. I really did think about it. On the one hand, I would usually self declare as “woman”. Period. Not a second thought. On the other had, I was impressed that they actually had multiple categories. Should I honor my community and acknowledge their efforts or be true to myself, to who I am? That was the dilemma. I had to take some time to decide what I was going to do. They stated that the data would be anonymous and secure, but really didn’t say for what purpose. In my world that is an issue.
We have a policy that you are not permitted to ask for gender unless there is a definite purpose and reason for doing so. Asking just for the sake of asking isn’t good enough. If you’re required to gather the data for purposes of reporting to an outside licensing or accreditation agency, then you can. Otherwise, not such. Given the information they provided, it didn’t meet our requirements. But then again, this third party provider was not subject to that rule/policy. What was a very simple ask in their eyes got very complicated very quietly in mine.
Why as a society do we need to try to pigeon hole everybody? To what end? Is it comforting? Easier to understand our surroundings, provide us with context that creates order? What does knowing my gender have to do with the remainder of the survey? Or whatever the service is? Why do we need to do this. People are people. Let it be.
What would you do????