AZENet Week: Counting the Uncounted: Affirming Evaluation Practices for Transgender and Non-binary (TNB) Populations by Trey Jenkins & Isaac Akapnitis

Isaac Akapnitis, LMSW and Trey Jenkins, MSW are first year doctoral students and staff at the Arizona State University Center of Applied Behavioral Health Policy interested in studying Transgender and Non-binary (TNB) health and wellness. In their experiences as researchers, community advocates, and as members of the TNB community, they are particularly interested in how evaluation can be more inclusive and accurate with respect to gender identity. 

TNB individuals experience health disparities that cannot be addressed or fully understood if the demographic information is incomplete. As marginalized communities such as TNB populations have been disproportionately negatively impacted by COVID-19, this is ever more important.  To understand the disparities more fully, we must broaden the response options for gender in our studies.

Limited options for gender excludes communities and limits our understanding of the meaning in our data. Many studies typically only address a binary understanding of sex as either man or woman. In some instances, participants are stigmatized by only having binary response options and a third category – “other”. This can be frustrating for those who do not fit into binary boxes and it does not address the vast spectrum of gender identities. Additionally, it is important not to conflate sexual orientation and gender. It not accurate to ask on a survey, “Are you/do you identity as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer)?” Instead, it is more accurate to ask separate questions about sexual orientation (who a person is romantically/sexually attracted to) and gender identity (who a person understands themselves to be). 

Hot Tips:

To create more inclusive demographic questions, we recommend utilizing a multi-step question. This format allows respondents to indicate their gender and provides a follow up for respondents to indicate whether or not they are transgender. Also note that the write in option is labeled as “not listed” rather than “other” to avoid the stigmatizing language we referred to earlier.  

1a. What is your gender?

Response options: male, female, agender, nonbinary (genderqueer, genderfluid, and additional nonbinary identities), questioning, not listed: _______ 

1b.  Do you consider yourself transgender? (Your current gender is different than your sex assigned at birth or what was listed on your original birth certificate) 

         Response options: yes, no, unsure 

If you would like to inquire about whether someone is intersex, create a separate question. Intersex is not a gender or sexual orientation, and is different than being transgender / nonbinary. Please review InterAct’s guide to data collection in the Rad Resources below for more information.

We also recommend engaging in Community Based Participatory Based research practices, as well as utilizing paid consultants from the TNB community to ensure appropriate evaluation practices are in place. 

Rad Resources: 

The following resources provide further information on gender diversity and accurately capturing and writing about gender in surveys, intakes, evaluations, and reports. 

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Arizona Evaluation Network (AZENet) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our AZENet members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by theAmerican Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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