There are often times we're asked for personal information when completing forms. We're usually reminded that the information is used only for monitoring purposes and - in an job application situation - that the information provided won't make any difference to the onboarding process.  
 
But for some members of society, a badly designed form or clumsy questioning can be really triggering. So let's look at some options to avoid causing distress to people before they even start working or studying with us!  

Why are you asking? 

The first thing to work out is why you want to collect this information in the first place. We're not suggesting for a minute this hasn’t been done, but often organisations ask for information simply because they’ve always asked for it, rather than because it’s actually needed.  
 
You may decide it doesn’t need to be asked at all or you may decide it’s more important than ever to collect information about people’s gender identity and/or sexuality. But if no one can answer the question ‘why do we need this information?’ then it probably doesn’t need to be asked. 

Sex or gender?  

If you’re asking about someone’s gender, then it’s gender we want to ask about rather than sex.  
 
We don’t want to use phrasing such as what gender do you identify as?, even though this can feel inclusive, because this can imply that trans men – for example – aren’t actually men. 
 
However, if you are asking for someone’s gender because you want to know what pronouns to use to address them (which is a great idea) then asking instead What are your pronouns? is a really inclusive way to find out what you need to know.  
 
If you’re using a form or tick box, you might use something like this: 
 
What are your preferred pronouns? 
He/him 
She/her 
They/them 
Something else: (give space to type free text) [don’t use other as it sounds like an after thought] 
Prefer not to say: 
 
You cannot go wrong with that. 
 
Some people won't want to answer, so give them the option not to.  
 
If you’re going ahead and asking for gender too then there are way too many options to include every possible gender.  
 
If you Google the question how many genders are there? you can see a mix of answers: we've just tried this and on the first page of Google we can see a list of 58, a list of 4, a list of 72, a list of 68 and a list of 100! You’re not going to list all of those on your form as this would be very confusing, so again your options likely to be similar to the pronouns question above. 
 
Which of the following most accurately describes you? Tick all that apply. 
Female 
Male 
Transgender 
Non-binary 
Intersex 
Something else (give space to type free text) 
Prefer not to say 
 
Here, make sure (if using a tick box form), people can tick more than one option. For example, someone might be transgender but identify as non-binary. Someone else may be transgender but not want to disclose this (and there’s absolutely no requirement for them to) and may prefer to just tick male or female. 
 
Note that in the question we haven’t even mentioned the word gender. Then we are being truly inclusive of agender people, who do not have a gender. 

What about sexuality?  

Again, if you Google list of sexualities then you could be listing up to 50. But we don’t want to do that as it gets extremely complicated and detracts from what you actually want to achieve, which is inclusivity. Hopefully if you are asking this on a form, it is to identify the diversity within an organisation or on a project. Many people can get nervous when this question is asked on a form, even in 2022, so if you’re asking the question ensure that the reason is made clear and it doesn’t go against the 2010 Equality Act as sexual orientation is a protected characteristic. 
 
You could ask something along the lines of: 
 
Sexual orientation: Tick all that apply. 
Straight 
Gay 
Lesbian 
Bisexual 
Pansexual 
Something else (give space to type free text) 
Prefer not to say 
 
Include the option for someone to tick more than one box. 

Asking for titles 

Finally, if you are asking for people’s titles, again make sure there is a reason for it. Lots of organisations aren’t asking this question at all anymore as – particularly Mr – is a courtesy title given to others at their discretion rather than something you refer to yourself as. If you are asking for titles, go for something similar: 
 
Title: 
Miss 
Mrs 
Ms 
Mr 
Mx 
Something else (give space to type free text) 
Prefer not to say 
 
Mx is pronounced Mix and is a good gender-neutral option to include. 

What if we need to learn more about this?  

SKL Training runs a 6 hour LGBTQI+ Awareness training session that covers some of this (and other bits) in a lot more detail, particularly information about trans staff and a massive glossary of LGBTQI+ terms.  
 
It’s not a woke-fest: just straightforward information that can help to make a workplace inclusive!  
 
It can be very easy to think that gender and sexuality are a given but for many LGBTQI+ people, discrimination, gaslighting and disrespect have pushed them to feel at the very edge of society.  
 
Think Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (below). If we meet staff and students' love, belonging, safety and esteem needs, they are much more likely to achieve self actualisation (and, in turn, the company's self actualisation!). Inclusivity is not difficult to achieve and it's well worth the effort for everyone.  
Contact us for more information on our LGBTQI+ Awareness training session or for advice on how to bring more inclusivity into your place of work! 
 
Share this post:

Leave a comment: 

Tags

Our site uses cookies. For more information, see our cookie policy. Accept cookies and close
Reject cookies Manage settings