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…
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!
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.