Gender Census 2016: Worldwide Report

Original Tumblr post


I am pleased to announce that I have the results of this year’s survey to share. This post will be about the international results, which include the responses from UK participants.

The survey ran from 8th January to 16th January 2016, for 8 days. It was promoted on social networks (Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, and anywhere that anyone felt like sharing) and the Project Wonderful ad network, and the survey was built with Google Forms. Participants were self-selecting, and were invited to take part if they were neither exclusively always male nor exclusively always female. It asked:

  • Which words from a list (plus a textbox) participants identified with [optional, checkboxes]
  • Which title from a list (plus a textbox) participants most wanted to use [optional, single answer only]
  • Which pronouns from a list (plus a textbox) participants were happy with [optional, checkboxes]
  • Whether the participant is in the UK [required]
  • Two pilot questions for possible inclusion in next year’s survey [optional, open text box, not discussed here, results not published]
  • For feedback – most of the questions asked have been answered in this FAQ post.

There were 3,078 responses altogether. I removed 28 (mostly duplicates, and a sprinkling of trolls) from the results, leaving 3,055 (29% of which were from the UK).

[The results on Google Sheets]

Question 1: Which of the following best describe(s) in English how you think of yourself?

This year I specified English in each of the questions for the first time.

The top 5 were:

  1. Nonbinary 64.6% (up 0.9%)
  2. Genderqueer 40.7% (down 0.5%)
  3. Trans 34.8% (up 3.7%)
  4. Agender 30.9% (down 0.5%)
  5. Transgender 30.9% (up 4.4%)

It’s probably not surprising to note that all but agender are umbrella terms. A lot of people when asked their gender have an umbrella term, plus a more detailed term. Mine is “nonbinary, more specifically agender”, and I think it can be compared to the way men and women sometimes clarify their gender with descriptive terms too – such as “woman, more specifically femme woman”. Typically there are fewer umbrella terms and a greater diversity in the words people use to narrow it down. But it certainly doesn’t work like that for everyone.

So, bearing in mind a lot of people chose only an umbrella term and a lot of people didn’t chose one at all, I’ll split it into what I currently understand to be umbrella terms and ways of being in them…

Umbrella terms, top 5:

  1. Nonbinary 64.6% (up 0.9%)
  2. Genderqueer 40.7% (down 0.5%)
  3. Trans 34.8% (up 3.7%)
  4. Transgender 30.9% (up 4.4%)
  5. Trans* 8.9% (down 3.7%)

Ways of being in them, top 5:

  1. Agender 30.9% (down 0.5%)
  2. Fluid gender/genderfluid 30.8% (down 0.4%)
  3. Enby 15.6%
  4. Demigender 14.8%
  5. Transmasculine 14.2% [footnote 1]

I’ve not shown the up/down % for enby, demigender or transmasculine, because I didn’t offer any of those as options last year and so the figures aren’t really comparable – people are ten times more likely to check a box than to write an identity into the “other” box.

It’s interesting to note that the two umbrella words that went down in popularity, genderqueer and trans*, are both words that people were vocal about in the feedback box – specifically, that those words were hurtful or offensive. (People complained about genderqueer because it contains the word queer, which is still a slur in many places, and complaints about trans* most commonly were about it excluding nonbinary people and being transmisogynist.)

Here’s a summary:

  • 22 identity words were offered in the survey.
  • 40 identity words were typed into the “other” box more than once.
  • 117 identity words were typed into the “other” box only once.
  • That’s 179 identity words total.
  • People chose on average 3.9 identity words each.
  • Most people (21%) chose only one identity label.
  • 91% of people chose between 1 and 7 identity labels.

Question 2: In a magical world where all title fields on forms were optional and write-your-own, what would you want yours to be in English?

This question allowed only one answer, though people very occasionally sneakily used the text box to tell me about either-or situations – and those titles were counted too.

The top 5 were:

  1. Mx 34.4% (up 2.4%)
  2. No title at all 32.9% (down 17.4%)
  3. Neutral career or qual 12.6% 
  4. Standard NB/GQ title 3.6%
  5. Mr 3.0% (down 1.8%)

Last year “no title” was most popular, and this year it’s Mx – but only just, by 1.5%.

The “no title” option has gone down very significantly this year, and I’m not sure why that is but I suspect that it may have something to do with me offering more titles as pre-written options this year; last year over 1% of people entered Dr into the other box, so I included it this year by adding gender-inclusive (eg: Dr) and gender-exclusive (eg: Sister) career/qualification titles as two separate options. I also added an “unknown” option. I think these changes and the increasing popularity of Mx account for most of the difference in the “no title” option.

A significant change from last year was my inclusion of a hypothetical gender-exclusive title for nonbinary people, as opposed to the gender-inclusive Mx, Ind, Per, etc. A gender-exclusive nonbinary title would be one that is intended for only nonbinary people to use, in the same way that men get Mr and women get Ms. Possibly unsurprisingly, this was the most popular gender-exclusive title option at 3.6%. Although this option asked people choosing it to let me know about any gender-exclusive nonbinary titles in the feedback box, no one suggested one.

The vast majority of people (67%) would rather have Mx or no title at all. This could be for a number of reasons, such as a belief that gender is irrelevant, or the fact that nonbinary people still face significant discrimination and would rather have a gender-inclusive title that anyone can use and therefore theoretically doesn’t out them as nonbinary and/or trans.

Due to them getting under 1% of responses this year, I will be removing Misc, Pr, Mrs, and gendered career/qualification titles from the list of offered titles next year.

Question 3: Supposing all pronouns were accepted by everyone without question and were easy to learn, which pronouns are you happy for people to use for you?

This question allowed multiple answers, and had a write-in “other” box. The pronouns question always takes me a LOT of hard work for various reasons, so I’m thinking about better ways to ask about this.

The top 5 were:

  • Singular they/them 77.5% (up 3.1%)
  • She/her 25.0% (up 1.1%)
  • He/him 23.4% (up 1.6%)
  • Mix it up 12.2%
  • None/avoid pronouns 11.0% (down 2.2%)

“Mix it up” was a new option this year, and a good idea, I think – a lot of people selected several well-known pronouns as they did last year, but were able to add this very practical detail to their responses.

Here’s a summary:

  • 13 pronouns were offered in the survey.
  • 33 pronouns were typed into the “other” box more than once.
  • 90 pronouns were typed into the “other” box only once.
  • That’s 123 pronouns total.
  • People chose on average 2 acceptable pronouns each.
  • Most people (44%) chose only one pronoun.
  • About 3 in 4 people were happy with only 1 or 2 pronouns.

Last year I had to add a couple of pronouns because they got over 1% in the “other” text box, but this year only offered pronoun options went over 1%. I was surprised to see the relatively new xe/xem pronoun get more than the well-established zie/hir and Spivak options.

As with last year, he/him and she/her were approximately equal and more acceptable than anything but singular they/them. Some people expressed comfort with a gendered pronoun because it was incongruent with their gender assigned at birth and therefore caused less dysphoria, and some were happy to stick with the familiar pronouns people assume based on birth assignment. Many people chose both he/him and she/her. It demonstrates that one cannot judge gender assigned at birth based on gendered pronouns, and that a comfort with or preference for gendered pronouns doesn’t indicate that one is binary.

The questions I ask
  • What should the third gender option on forms be called? – Still no consensus in that area. Even the most popular word (nonbinary) doesn’t work for around 2 in 5 of us, which is significant.
  • Is there a standard neutral title yet? – Not yet. Mx is looking very promising, and is consistently far more popular than all other titles, but just as many nonbinary people want no title at all. It’s really important that activists campaigning for greater acceptance of gender diversity remember to fight for titles to be optional, too.
  • Is there a pronoun that every nonbinary person is happy with? – As with last year, still no. The closest we have to a standard is singular they, and so I will use the data to campaign for journalists and anyone else with a style guide to allow it. But around 1 in 4 (23%) of us are not happy with singular they.
  • Are any of the neopronouns gaining ground in a way that competes with singular they? – No. Additionally, they are very difficult to count and therefore cannot be represented accurately, just because there is no consensus on spelling, form or pronunciation. This can partially be rectified by me improving my survey software, but users of these neopronouns will probably not reach consensus for many years – language and especially pronouns can be very slow to settle and gain ground.
What I’ll do differently next year
  • I’m going to look into paid and professional survey services. There are some questions that I would love to ask and some analysis that I would love to do that are very hard work in Google Sheets. (I do love playing in spreadsheets though.)
  • I’m also going to look into some more functional way to offer mailing lists. I think more people would be able to take part and promote if they could get an email reminder when the survey started. This year I’m using Google Sheets to let people ask for an email when the results are posted and when next year’s survey goes up, and I am going to be doing a LOT of copy-pasting. I’m happy to do it, but imagine if I didn’t have to! (If you want to get email notifications of anything, please do click here!)
  • I am going to start social networky things for this survey. Every year I spam all my followers with this, and no doubt some of them are kinda fed up of it. I also think that there must be people out there who wouldn’t read an email but would see a tweet or a blog post, and those people maybe don’t want my TV screencaps and waffling about autism for the 11 months of the year that I’m not hyperfocused on this survey.

Closing thoughts

You are all awesome. I love that you are all willing to trust me with this stuff, and I feel very lucky to be able to do this whole thing because I find it really fun and interesting. I learn so much every time. Thanks for another great survey experience!

Footnotes added after publishing

  1. It’s been pointed out to me that people who use transmasculine tend to see it as an umbrella term, but I feel like I don’t know enough about that to confidently edit this post! So I’m going to add this as a footnote and leave it at that. Perhaps more questions about which are umbrella terms and which aren’t will happen next year.