LGBT TIG Week: Kari Greene and Emily Greytak on Becoming More Transgender-inclusive in Your Evaluation Work

This is Kari Greene with Program Design & Evaluation Services in Oregon, and Emily Greytak with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network in New York. We are with the American Evaluation Association’s (AEA) LGBT Issues Topical Interest Group (TIG) and are heartened to see AEA members building cultural competency around transgender-inclusivity.

Have you ever thought about what you’re really asking with “What is your gender: Male or Female?” Do you want to know how people identify to others? How others see them? What sex they were assigned at birth? This ubiquitous question and standard response options deserve more thought…

Hot Tips:

Should I ask transgender identity? Sex at birth? Current gender?

Start with asking what you really need to know and why. For example, a health program offering cancer screenings may need to know if male-identified clients have anatomy/physiology typically associated with females, so they may need breast or cervical cancer screenings. Meanwhile, a housing program might only need to assess if the outcomes are different between transgender and non-trans clients.

I can’t ask people if they’re transgender – they’ll be offended!

Including trans-inclusive items appears to be innocuous for adults and youth. Oregon tested two transgender items in the statewide health survey and respondents 18 to 80 answered easily. In fact, income and weight questions have far higher refusal rates.

I put “Transgender” on my client form but a transgender client checked the “Female” box – what did I do wrong?

Nothing! Some transgender people may identify as both female or male and transgender, so you may want a “check all that apply” gender item. Others may only identify as male or female, so you could also add a question asking sex assigned at birth. Some people don’t identify as male, female or transgender so an open option is helpful.

There are so few transgender people – why bother since I can’t use them in subgroup analysis of male/female participants?

Remember the program is already serving transgender people – they just aren’t counted. Create an analytic plan that describes all participants, and combines groups reliably and respectfully. Excluding transgender respondents sends the message that the evaluation or program is not relevant or welcoming to transgender people.

Any sample questions you suggest?

Yes, but it depends on what you need to know. There is no single “best item” for assessing transgender respondents but these resources can help!

Rad Resources:

Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey

Assessing Transgender Status in Surveys of Adolescents: A GLSEN Research Brief Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders

Eval12 Session 654: Don’t Ask, Can’t Report  materials in the AEA public eLibrary

aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. We’re celebrating LGBT Evaluation week with our colleagues in AEA’s LGBT Topical Interest Group. 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. 

2 thoughts on “LGBT TIG Week: Kari Greene and Emily Greytak on Becoming More Transgender-inclusive in Your Evaluation Work”

  1. Good morning,

    My name is Megan Kot and I am currently a Masters in Education candidate at Queen’s University. I am taking a summer course, “Program Inquiry and Evaluation”, and I found this blog post particularly interesting in debunking ideas of problematic knowledge and exclusive language regarding trans identities.

    Your post made me think of Alkin and Taut’s conversation on evaluation knowledge, in their article, “Unbundling Evaluation Use”. In particular, Alkin and Taut discuss how evaluation factors can effect the utility of evaluation; “the way in which evaluation knowledge is presented and its reporting also determines the nature of evaluation knowledge being produced,” (2003). I agree with your stance against the exclusion of trans identities on surveys for a program regardless of the number of respondents participating in that program. I think that in order to transgress gender, that we cannot continue to be okay with the addition of other bodies into a program, but rather we must centralize their experiences, capturing those experiences to then revisit that current program. I think that this post is so fundamentally important to capturing alternative narratives, and showcasing the lived trauma and continued pain of many “non-normative” folks. This post debunks issues around language, and technicalities in survey questioning. I would be interested in continuing the conversation around trans-identities intersected by other factors including race, class and/or interpersonal relationships. I think it’s incredibly important to maintain that there is no overarching categorizations for trans identities in terms of responses. Just like cisfolk, every body and everybody is different, resilient and handles trauma in their own way. From the resources you shared, is there a particular approach (from your experience) that you find particularly helpful in terms of creating survey questions that meet the needs to the content you discussed? How do you strategize and deal with, as an evaluator, the complex levels of marginalization for the trans community without monopolizing one narrative over another? Any insight would be fantastic!


    Source: Alkin, M. C., and Taut, S. (2003). Unbundling evaluation use. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 29, 1-12.

  2. Elizabeth Brown-Miller

    Thank you for putting this together- I found this blog and the before it VERY helpful in providing some guidance for an upcoming assessment I am doing with some undergrads at our university. We have noticed that there is a lack of resources available to men who are victims of domestic violence or intimate partner violence. But reading through the blogs made me realize that we should our focus to not just men, but transgender men and women as well. Collecting the data using the “select all that apply” approach will allow us to determine a more comprehensive assessment as to which segment of our population is victimized so that recommendations can be tailored to fill the gaps. But thanks for the insight (and resources. I rally do like reading through the various blog topics because I always find little tidbits of info-gold in them!

Leave a Reply to Elizabeth Brown-Miller Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.