just came to say hello
Join Date: Aug 2008
Unlocked with permission from Birkal. Thanks, dearie! I'd also like to thank Cathy for her thoughtful feedback on this post. <3
Hello, everyone. While the original proposal was suggested in a kinda frivolous manner, I was involved in several recent IRC discussions about implementing a profile field for gender and would like to resubmit this suggestion in an alternative form. Instead of having an icon next to the username or some other unsightly addition, I think a profile field would probably suffice.
A text field, in order to allow people to give the most accurate representation of their gender identity possible (I don't think we can really give a fair range of options in a dropdown menu, because there are many people who don't identify with the established gender binary and the range of gender identities people do have are quite diverse). This option would allow the most flexibility and detail of self-expression and ensure that nobody gets excluded.
This was the most popular and agreed-upon option, after speaking with other staff, although it excludes many identities: an optional (i.e. not filled in by default at registration) profile-visible dropdown menu field as follows.
* (blank value so you can unset it, also so it isn't filled at registration, like with the characteristic fields)
* Rather not say
The 'other' option would be for those who do not identify with the traditional gender binary, and 'rather not say' for those who expressly choose not to divulge their gender and would like an easy way to inform others that they don't want to advertise this information. This option is different to simply leaving the option unspecified. These options are not final, by the way, but are simply a working model for the purposes of the proposal.
I feel that this field would be useful for quite a few users and offers several important benefits, while really bringing zero drawbacks with them. First I would like to establish that the profile is generally used for two main things: a) to provide readers with relevant context and details on the user (when reading their posts or interacting with them, etc.), which I don't think is debatable b) as an outlet for self-expression and personalisation. I think b) is a little more debatable, but has a lot of precedent in Jumpman16's Pokémon/characteristic fields (which are really useless, let's be honest, unless you look at them as ways of expressing our interests, personality, and flavour), as well as the Location: tag being stripped from the Location field because people were using it for non-location-related things, as well as the fact we have custom titles, avatars, and signatures. I also think this also contributes to a) in that it lets us learn more about the users around us and who they are as people, as well as adding a lot of fun to the forums.
Gender is a core attribute of people's identity and a very useful piece of contextual information. More to the point, it affects how you address people. Most people default to referring to others as male in the absence of a known preferred pronoun, which can lead to some unfortunate and awkward situations for non-male users who are regularly mistaken for male because of this. If you identify as male, this may not seem like a big deal to you simply because you may not know how it feels to be regularly misgendered due to the persistent assumption that everyone is male (especially on the internet) -- please stop to consider what you have taken for granted! Furthermore, users can be misgendered as male or female because of many other reasons, cultural assumptions, and gender-associated conventions, such as use of character avatars (people are regularly treated as their avatars, and pretty much no one uses an avatar that depicts their actual appearance), usernames (I might add that these can't be changed), posting styles, etc. This might be a one-off situation for some people, but for many other users it occurs on a regular basis (stop and think about it -- it's usually treated pretty lightly, but this goes back as far as forums history!). Those users presently have the option of setting their real name or specifying their gender in their signature/location, but really it would make considerably more sense to just have a gender field and dispel the confusion for all parties involved, especially as we shouldn't expect people to be comfortable revealing their names (and names don't always reveal gender).
It can be inconvenient, annoying, and embarrassing to have your gender routinely mistaken. Recently I had to correct an incidence onsite of accidental misgendering in The Smog that was simply caused by unawareness of the user's gender, but it was preventable and I feel like we should look to avoid incidents like this in the future everywhere in the community where possible. Additionally, while I am cisgendered and I cannot profess to understand what it feels like to be misgendered as a transgendered person, I do know that it can be quite painful and damaging and I feel like this is a very small (in terms of resources/effort on our part) but very important concession we could make towards protecting people's feelings and fostering good attitudes in the community.
Furthermore, it would make communication easier for a lot of people, and that can't be a bad thing! Trying to refer to someone with whom you're unfamiliar when you're unsure about their gender can be very awkward -- as I discussed on IRC recently, some people don't default to male terms of reference, instead preferring 's/he', singular 'they', or avoiding pronouns altogether, which can make things very complicated, and sometimes gender is a pertinent factor to discussion --, and if users who actually really cared about how they were addressed were able to specify this (at least insofar as a 'gender' field lets you specify how you want to be addressed...), it would make this a lot simpler for all parties concerned. I think this is huge utility, personally. You might make the argument that people already know each other's genders, except gender confusion is actually a constant subject that you might not be aware of if it doesn't happen to you, and this is really only the case for established members of the community -- new users may not know how a user chooses to be addressed, and vice versa. It can be awkward to ask someone's gender directly because it's often such a sensitive and even offensive issue and further can be misconstrued in a variety of many uncomfortable ways, so it would really make it simpler for everyone if this information was available (for those who care to make use of this option) proactively.
Like any forum feature, this is open for potential abuse. I dispute that this is a truly legitimate concern in this context. Firstly I think that we should just address people how they ask to be addressed out of politeness and respect for other's feelings (which is why I wanted a preferred pronoun field, but whatever). I think the risk of making others uncomfortable via misgendering significantly outweighs the risk of falling for immature teenage boys pretending to be girls on the internet, which they have already done in multitudes of elaborate ways throughout Smogon's history. It is an exaggerated concern, in my opinion. If you address a troll as 'she' because they set their profile to indicate that they are female, what did you lose? Nothing. (I really don't get why people here are so insecure and afraid of the 'FAKE GIRL' menace in 2013.) Furthermore, people regularly put false information in other profile fields and we have taken the position of accepting that while still valuing their legitimate usages, as shown with the location and name fields. If people really wanna troll like that, then let them have their fun. It matters little. They already do it via other profile fields anyway. In fact, basically all information that is posted on these forums is identifying in some way and much of it could be false, yet that is not a convincing argument to shut the forums down!
Some people don't really feel uncomfortable when they are misgendered, but they may still want to provide the information, the same as they might want to provide their name, publicise their age, list their location, etc., and that is perfectly understandable. It is a very immediate facet in how we identify other people.
Of course, this is not an important issue for some people. Those people are lucky and lose nothing through the implementation of a gender field, except maybe the administrator implementing the field, who loses a short amount of time in adding something that makes things better for a lot of people. In fact, they have only to gain, in possibly correcting some incorrect assumptions they may have made about some other users. Either way, they are not required to fill out this field.
I hope we can have a respectful conversation about this issue. If this is important to you, please speak up -- I'd love to hear from you. Thank you!