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Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Gender
  1. There are two and only two genders.
  2. Okay, then there are two and only two biological genders.
  3. Gender is determined solely by biology.
  4. Okay, it’s mostly determined by biology, right?
  5. Please tell me it’s determined by DNA.
  6. Gender can be reliably determined through visual means. After all, no man would ever wear a burka.
  7. Once gender is set, it never changes.
  8. Even if the gender can change, it will only change from the one value to the other value.
  9. Only one gender can be “active” at the same time.
  10. We’re tracking gender now, so we’ve always tracked it.
  11. I only need to be concerned with human gender.

Source: http://www.cscyphers.com/blog/2012/06/28/falsehoods-programmers-believe-about-gender/

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@zyphlar zyphlar commented Jun 25, 2016

I had to write a medical system similar to MyFitnessPal that estimated metabolic targets based on gender, since there are measurable differences in metabolism between men and women -- unfortunately I had to give up and use a binary, but I did try to allow for it being the gender your metabolism is most aligned with, and give each user the opportunity to change it instead of leaving it up to the doctor. Turns out the USDA doesn't really have much/any data on trans/intersex metabolism, which I think should change. (Opportunity for original research/reporting?) My best guess would have been to try and interpolate those values somehow (on a scale from 0-100 how masculine is your metabolism?) but given how complex the calculations already were and how approximate the results already were I just had to call it quits, name the field as best I could, and move on. 😞

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@jensreu jensreu commented Oct 19, 2016

You should add "people are comfortable telling you what gender they belong to" - here it's fairly common (depending on social strata etc etc) to give "other" or "Not Disclosed" if the option is available because for some it's considered an inconsiderate question. I am a man, biologically, socially, etc. But I fill in gender as "other" or "Not Disclosed" if available

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@greg0ire greg0ire commented Oct 21, 2016

@AndyOGo : so to you, people described in this page are perverts somehow? Or at least, they should not count?

@katef

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@katef katef commented Oct 25, 2016

@AndyOGo When you say "objectively", I think you're talking about sex, whereas this list is about gender. And even for sex, that's wrong.

@felix-steiny

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@felix-steiny felix-steiny commented Oct 27, 2016

ISO has a standard for "human sexes". It's not complete by any means, but it does have more than two values.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO/IEC_5218

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@dhasenan dhasenan commented Nov 5, 2016

  1. My system needs to care about users' gender.
  2. Everyone has a gender.
@toni-sharpe

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@toni-sharpe toni-sharpe commented Dec 30, 2016

Sex is biological and sometimes referred to as 'gender'.
Gender identity is a different thing but is also referred to as 'gender'.
In both cases there are more than two.
This information comes from medical practice, not Tumblr.

Facebook do it best, they let you choose some text that describes your gender, as it doesn't matter in any context really outside of health services where it is confidential. You don't need an ID field to associate with it, you just need a text field.

Other is not a good term, as it suggests the group who don't fit into what you perceive as common are somehow less valuable (the term for this is 'othering' and in it's worst form it causes ethnic cleansing amongst other things).

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@lewisje lewisje commented Jan 17, 2017

@Pr0methean, the ISO and IEC may be up to the job, and I know that the Library of Congress has some references; I also found this informative classification of the infamous "list of 58 gender options" from that story that ABC (United States) ran when Facebook was first opening up its options for user-specified gender.

@Pds314

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@Pds314 Pds314 commented Mar 14, 2017

"I only need to be concerned with human gender."

This is true for any nonhuman besides possibly AI, aliens, or maybe a handful of animals that can speak. If we need to enter gender information for a cat, we have no way of knowing if the cat has any gender at all.
Maybe it sees itself as female.
Maybe male.
Maybe both, neither, or something else entirely.
Maybe it switches around on a daily basis, or maybe it just sees itself as a cat or even just as itself.
Or maybe a cat is not sophisticated enough to even have a self-concept, so talking about gender makes no sense.

The problem is, cats can't speak. They can't write. They can't communicate to us with any degree of precision. That's why it only makes sense to talk about biological sex of cats, not the gender. The same is true of all other nonhuman entities I've ever heard of. Now sure, AI or aliens or exceptionally-educated chimpanzees might have meaningful distinctions here, but the point is, if it can't answer questions, we don't care about its gender because it cannot be determined.

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@thany thany commented May 3, 2017

  1. I can infer a corresponding pronoun when a user's gender is known.
@thomasjwebb

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@thomasjwebb thomasjwebb commented Sep 20, 2017

Some other ones that are good to add:

  • A person has a single, legal gender
  • Passports (and birth certificates, and driver's licenses) only have two sexes
  • A person's birth certificate agrees with their passport or driver's license as to their gender
  • There are only two types of genitalia, corresponding to birth assignment
  • Okay, but birth assignment corresponds to genitalia at birth, right?
  • Everyone knows what their gender on their birth certificate is
  • Only men have Y-linked diseases
  • Chromosomes correspond to genitalia at birth
  • There are only two possible chromosome combinations
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@SwiftLawnGnome SwiftLawnGnome commented Sep 21, 2017

@nukeop
You forgot

  • The way that I feel/am is exactly identical to how every single other person feels/is that shares certain biological characteristics which have historically been associated with one of exactly two specific states of being/feeling

That sounds empirically valid!

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@lutoma lutoma commented Oct 13, 2017

Great list, thanks. It's also very telling that this list was written by a developer who has been on Github for years and has contributed to many open source projects, but the comments immediately dismissing it are dudes who mostly have no contributions and joined Github much more recently (not even 3 weeks ago in one case…).

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@BU-AWolfe BU-AWolfe commented Oct 16, 2017

The reason this looks like alt-sex propaganda is that very few of these 'myths' have to do with programming. Whether one considers non-biological gender valid or dysfunctional, programmers must be to deal with entities - organizations, governments, whatever - that exclusively accept birth-assigned biological gender, and entities that allow changeable or multiple gender, and/or fluid lists of possible genders. It's gone so far it's hard to consider it sane, but we have to deal with it.

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@alsamflux alsamflux commented Oct 21, 2017

Just because we don't bother to dump code on github doesn't mean we don't have to deal with gender/sex fields in our programming. There is life outside of your little universe. M, F, null, Not disclosed. I worked on a system that default to M, so secretaries constantly left it that way even for females.

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@W1R3D-Code W1R3D-Code commented Oct 26, 2017

Good list, my main takeaway is to question the need to save a users gender in the first place; its something that I tend to see as a requirement and have never really questioned it. After reading this I challenged the requirement on my current project and its been dropped entirely :neckbeard: Work smarter, not harder right? :trollface:

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@rdkbrady rdkbrady commented Jun 14, 2018

Well this is old af, but I'm gonna put a data science perspective in. Gender is a concept with multiple senses, and you need to be clear which one you are asking users for when collecting that information, as well as clear what the end use case is. You can do that because you're trying to avoid the nonbinary death commandos of Tumblr, or you can do it because you are trying to build a more precise model.

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@Qqwy Qqwy commented Jun 20, 2018

  • Biological gender, Legal gender and the gender signifying what pronoun should be used for a user are all one and the same thing.
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@spilth spilth commented Aug 21, 2018

  • Male should come before Female in forms
@MarjaE2

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@MarjaE2 MarjaE2 commented Oct 25, 2018

  • If gender varies between 2+ databases, this should be flagged as a no-match. (This has implications for access to work, healthcare, and voting, among other things.)
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@jibal jibal commented Nov 30, 2018

Even though this is about assumptions that programmers should not make, and not about "politics", it's no surprise that quite a few parochial reactionaries made it about their political ideology rather than about facts. (And these folks like to talk about "biology" and what's "objective" while making it clear that they know nearly nothing about biology or the scientifically objective mode of thinking that puts data first. Really these bigots are a bunch of emo snowflakes.)

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@topr topr commented Dec 12, 2018

@AndyOGo

Actually 1) is not a falsehood. Objectively there are only male and female.
I would not count all the possible sexual perversions existing as gender, it's just an irrational creation it's not a fact.

Fact is just an instrument of oppression in the radical constructivists view ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

@greg0ire

Or at least, they should not count?

Calling perverts is rather wrong and surely rude but from an engineer/system designer point of view cost of increased complexity to handle insignificant edge cases quite likely justifies 'not counting' them in great majority of cases (systems).
Might be sad for some but true for those who pay for the system or maintain it.

@thomasjwebb

There are only two possible chromosome combinations

Only two chromosome but more possible combinations.
For instance: Klinefelter syndrome with an extra one XXY or XXY and more.

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@ilabacheuski ilabacheuski commented Feb 21, 2019

12. "Gender" and "sex" are the same thing.

That should be the first. After that, there is no need to discuss something more. I personally misunderstood it, because in Russian we mostly think about sex, telling gender. That is a real problem.

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@dfletcher dfletcher commented Feb 22, 2019

Holy cow this github thread is overrun by homophobic people.

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@stevefan1999-personal stevefan1999-personal commented Feb 23, 2019

@sboosali

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@sboosali sboosali commented Apr 5, 2019

the title: Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Gender

this thread: "I'm a programmer." States a falsehood about gender.

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@luismasuelli luismasuelli commented Jun 26, 2019

  1. No new genders can be further invented.

That goes in topic with: Genders do not actually exist, since there are several factors, as enumerated. If genders exist, an allegedly exhaustive list would be a potential source of discrimination against new and personal expressions. Said this, the currently known list of 112 gender variations (which can be applied to male/female, except those that are in the exact middle) has a lot of funny examples of these expressions that remind us of Sakura Card Captor or something like. Say I want a new gender because I don't fit even inside "helio-" variants (!!!), the list would not be exhaustive.

Gender is a personal manifestation sourced in a mix of factors and, said this, there is a quite wide range as one per person (at least, who asks themselves about). This is because our society is quite diverse.

So, when you have that kind of explosion principle, solely depending on your business model you fall back to average user expectations:

  • Biological sex (which isn't binary, let's say, although there's a minority out there).
  • Mating preferences / sexual orientation.

Gender Ideology (which IT IS - despite the fact I totally support it) is a self-collapsing system that only serves to bring the individual into the social scene on its own. It is totally useless as a category system, but then you fall back to the other two attributes, and let the users in your community do the rest of the job.

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@ieahleen ieahleen commented Jul 21, 2019

most websites only need one question:

How would you like to be addressed?

  • male
  • female
  • neutral

With added caveat if one choose neutral:

We will try to do our best, but we are working on internazionalizing our app / web-site and not in all languages is possible to do so. In this case would you be more confortagle with?

  • male
  • female
  • please make sure I never select one of those languages, I like neutrality of english
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@yuwash yuwash commented Nov 23, 2019

Better make the purpose of the question clear:

Do you want our offers be gendered?

  • It doesn’t matter. Just give me the best/cheapest offer (10 % discount for the first month!)
  • Yes, please make it conform to the traditional female gender
  • Yes, please make it conform to the traditional male gender
  • No, please show me your certified gender-neutral offers (#2019-98765)
  • Let me customize my preferences in the next step
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@sameh-sharaf sameh-sharaf commented Jul 29, 2020

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@JwanMan JwanMan commented Sep 8, 2020

What disgusts me is the fact that this whole thing still exists and people still use

DEVELOPER

platform to discuss fucking politics.

What disgusts me is the fact that so many people still think that this is about politics or ideology.

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@greymont greymont commented Sep 9, 2020

12. "Gender" and "sex" are the same thing.

This should definitely be added!

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@supernaut supernaut commented Sep 18, 2020

Going out of your way to push your personal gender binary beliefs is a lot more ideological than building user-centric systems that cater to the actual needs and wants of the people using your product. Lists like this are great reminders to build systems for people, not only people like yourself.

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Owner Author

@garbados garbados commented Oct 6, 2020

Hey folks,

This thread had become a bit of a cesspool so I went through and deleted comments I thought were shitty. Censorship? You betcha, bigots! Sorry you had to learn this way but everything is political and refusing to engage with those politics is a form of privilege 🙃

If you are in a position to consider writing forms about gender, consider the Hall of Gender Forms.

As developers, as people doing the work of software, it is our responsibility to refuse to perform unethical labor, and to consider the ethics of our acts as deeply as we can. If your boss or workplace asks you to build discriminatory or otherwise harmful systems, you have an obligation to refuse. Take responsibility for the consequences of your actions and confront your inevitable ignorance.

Have a good one,
Diana

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@rilerez rilerez commented Oct 13, 2020

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@LittleFox94 LittleFox94 commented Nov 7, 2020

Well, some time ago I found a way to collapse long lists into groups of genders instead, after diving into the list of 112 gender variants. It was like:

cis-male, cis-female, bi-gender (static), trans-male, trans-female, agender, demi-male, demi-female, demi-bi, fluid-male, fluid-female, fluid-bi, pan-gender (self-identifying with all of them), pan-gender-fluid, unidentified (due to not knowing, not being sure, not being able, or refusing to self-identify), or refusing to answer (which is not the same as answering that one's gender identification is refusing to self-identify).

hm cis-(fe)male separate from trans-(fe)male is meh :/
People often use it to make us "something different" than normal. It's good it's cis-* and not just *, but still ._.
Also, this would force people to disclose they are trans - or lie to the form

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@garbados garbados commented Nov 11, 2020

Otherwise, any weird request may appear

I don't know the context of your work so I can't say to what effect you were categorizing genders. Maybe it was in some backend spreadsheet, used only for research. I can understand that. But if you put a form in front of me that asks if my gender is "trans-female" but not "female" I'm going to feel exposed, even offended. Generally speaking, no one has a right to know whether someone is transgender. In a dangerous world, it's dangerous information. It is not enough to tell trans people, "Well, alternatively you can just tell me nothing." Are our options really just to be othered or to be erased?

This is the point of the Hall of Gender Forms: that people's self-expression will often look like "any weird request", but that doesn't diminish the importance of respecting it.

I do not believe software has much business asking about gender, and that in those cases where software has any such business it should be as permissive with input as possible, and only do categorization after data entry.

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@garbados garbados commented Nov 18, 2020

you must be aware that "Male" or "Female" are cis by antonomasia

in fact, in many jurisdictions concealing the identity may become fraud depending on the interaction type

nope, i'm done. have a nice life.

from here on out, i will delete all comments. if you want your own list of falsehoods, fork the gist. this is not a place for discussion.

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