Gender identity in Space profiles

As you all know, one of the top priorities for Space is that it is welcoming for everyone. We think that showcasing the gender diversity of Space’s awesome user base is a great way for people of all identities to feel safe.

The Learning and Evaluation team at the Foundation has helpfully provided the survey question they are currently using for gender:

What is your current gender identity? Select all that apply.

Male/man ◯
Female/woman ◯
Transgender ◯
Non-binary ◯
Genderqueer ◯
Different identity (please state)
I prefer not to say ◯

For our case, Space admins were thinking these options could appear in a drop-down menu on the user profile, where the user can select all that apply. Selecting a gender identity would be optional, so we can remove “I prefer not to say”. The information could be displayed in the user’s profile, potentially after the “Name” field.

Curious to know what you think about this. Do you agree with the concept? Is there anything missing?

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I like the idea!
I also really appreciate that selecting their gender is an optional choice.

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I am… wary of a prompt where “male/man”, “female/woman” and “transgender” are separate options. I understand that in this case, it’s a multi-selection field, but it still reminds me of bad prompts in other forms where “transgender” is treated as a separate, distinct category from “male” and “female”.

I’m also a bit worried about the perceived obligation to select all the matching fields. If I was a trans man who was generally “living in stealth”, I might be willing to disclose my status as transgender to a survey (where it constitutes valuable information, but will be treated sensitively and only published anonymously), but not so willing to put it on my public profile. One suggestion for a less prescriptive prompt:

What is your current gender identity? You may select any fields that apply.

(Not sure if “fields” is the right word. Perhaps “options”? Or “terms”, “labels”?)

This is all coming from a cis male perspective though, and should be taken with appropriate amounts of salt :)

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You’re right, it does possibly have the effect of an unnecessary distinction here. But on the other hand, it is nice for trans people who’d like to disclose.

Yes, good point.

I also think this is important to keep in mind for the framing of a question, which does read like a survey (because it came from one).

Keeping in mind all of the above, the prompt could read instead, “Optional: current gender identity. Select any that apply.”

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The current proposal is about allowing users to express their gender in their public profiles. What about adding an option to keep this information confidential, not appearing in their profile but counting for statistical purposes?

Some people might not want to disclose their gender identity, or at least not right now, but they might have a strong interest in making it count in other ways?

Also, what about inviting the LGBT+ user group to this discussion (and to Space in general)? I think we have some members here already, and we could post in their Talk page(s) inviting them to share their views here.

https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_LGBT%2B/Portal

https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Queer_Wikimedians

I prefer no gender options at all. It doesn’t really contribute anything to the discussion capability of individuals. People will still misgender regardless (specifically because Discourse only shows images and nickname in the discussion), and there are always people not happy with the provided options. Effectively it therefor doesn’t do anything useful to have the information in the database. I think it is fine if people use their profile description text like they do on Twitter, if they really want to express this.

With regard to quim’s suggestion, I’d say that keeping things confidential is an extra burden you don’t want (and once you have the data, a state actor might require you to release it).

If it is needed for translations or something, then just refer to the conjugation/pronoun descriptions that are supported by the translation engine.

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What about asking for preferred pronouns?

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Speaking as a non-binary trans person, I agree with the concern expressed that “transgender” is not equivalent to male/man or female/woman; transgender is not a gender. The best practice is to make gender a fill-in-the-blank field. Second best is to include options of man/male, female/woman, other (fill in the blank), and decline to state.

I also agree with the suggestion that asking for pronoun preferences is a better way to go, unless you want or need to collect gender information for a specific reason, in which case that reason or reasons should be stated.

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I personally do not think the gathering of this information is relevant to Space or its functions, and always answer with I prefer not to say. If Space is now connected with our Wikipedia / Wikimedia accounts for SSO, collecting more data than is already asked for there somehow raises the concern of why it is being collected and what will happen with it.

Remind me again how asking for this will increase safety?

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Gender is a personal information and as such, it is a complex case in Europe in regards with the General Data Protection Regulation. As mentioned by Fulbert, you have to be clear on the rational for you to have this information and the way you plan to use it. If it serve for statistics or for a sociological study, you have to state it at first.

In my opinion, it is not a crucial information, but I am a cisgender male with a name globally associated with male, so I am incline to consider my opinion less valuable as for some one that is misgenred constantly.

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Coming from a gendered language (Spanish), and the expectation of a multilingual Space, it would be very good to be able to select gender so that male is not the default when being addressed or participating. This is what happens today in gendered language Wikipedias, you can choose your gender, except that you don’t get the option when you join, you have to hunt it down in Preferences and change it, else male is the default. It would be excellent to have the option from the start.

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Makes little difference to me personally. Quite happy to go with whatever other people choose for themselves.

This is all really constructive feedback, thanks everyone.

First I want to explain a little bit more about the “why” behind this, since I think I wasn’t as clear as I could have been in the first post. Essentially, we want to promote gender diversity in Space, since that’s a critical element of building safe spaces. We want people to feel comfortable disclosing if they want to (and to have the software respond to that information). In order to evaluate how effective Space is at creating a positive and inclusive environment, it’d be good to have clear metrics. Of course, there are many reasons why gender diversity may increase or decrease, but having our thumb on the pulse is helpful. And if it’s decreasing over a significant amount of time, that should be a possible red flag to pay attention to.

I think the feedback is spot-on about this initial options being more appropriate for an anonymous survey. And about some of the options not really fitting in the list. So, let’s move away from that and keep it simple. Would that mean just going with the three pronoun options available on MediaWiki? Would it mean more identity options than that, just perhaps fewer than what is above? Or something else?

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I already posted my views on https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T234274#5550198 that I consider the proposal here dangerous.

Yes, and these concerns were also shared by some people on this thread; they make a lot of sense. So I’m trying to get a sense of opinions on moving past the initial post (not really a proposal, more like a starting point), perhaps to something more like what you were describing instead.

I feel this sentence miss something. A uniforme cyberspace could be very safe. I am not sure you can say that diversity by itself reduce insecurity or any unhappy feelings for someone. I think it is more a lack of questioning about diversity and silence on a long list of hard-to-define inappropriate habits and attitude that could create insecurity. Open a new space dedicated to a specific problem each time it appears may be more adequate, when possible. Here, we are challenging one delimited question about gender diversity, and I think it is better to continue to explore it.

So, if anyone else want to add a comment related to gender identification of members, feel free to do so :slight_smile: and feel free to open a new feed on another aspect of the building of a safe space.

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Thanks for this, Noé. You’re right: diversity brings different perspectives that, when voiced, challenge unhealthy behaviors and assumptions that exist in a uniform cyberspace. So we need to ensure we are creating the conditions for these perspectives to be voiced. Sign ups and participation from a diverse userbase is a good proxy for measuring how safe the space is for everyone, although of course they don’t tell the whole story! Giving users the opportunity to self-identify would allow for this type of community health assessment, while also making the software and user profiles more responsive to this type of information, for a more equitable user experience across the board.

But then the question: how do we set this up in a way that is supportive, respectful and productive?

So far, it seems that the recommendations are leaning towards asking about pronouns (dropping the whole “identification” list), and beginning the process of identifying gendered strings and making them localizable. While this may not capture some of the nuances from the original idea, it would seem to me to be a reasonable way to go based on the concerns described here.

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To close the loop on this: based on what has been said, we will be keeping the selection as simple as possible. We will commission work that:

  • integrates the three options from MediaWiki into Space user profiles (“How do you prefer to be described?” at https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Special:Preferences)
  • identifies strings that may be gendered in different languages
  • provides a system for localizing those strings to make them responsive, across languages, to the pronoun selection

This is a big project, but we want to start this work as soon as possible. I have committed it for next quarter on our Space Phabricator board. If you’d like to follow the specifics of development, it’s T234274.

Any additional thoughts before January, feel free to chime in. And any open questions that come up during the course of development will be posted in Space for feedback.

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