The Importance of Gender Inclusivity in Your Database
Today’s guest blog post is written by Jude Shimer, Associate Director of Client Operations, PatronManager.
My name is Judith, and my friends call me Jude. I’m a classical pianist, love cooking vegan food, adore baby goats—and I’m also nonbinary.
Nonbinary is a transgender identity that means a person’s gender is not completely male or female. Although we’ve been around and documented for millennia in all cultures, only in recent years in the U.S. has it started to feel safe to be out, to form communities, have a public presence, and develop a common language for our experiences. For example, since neither “he” or “she” pronouns feel comfortable to me, I use singular “they.”
Being nonbinary in the world is an adventure, especially in the age of data. Here are two experiences I’ve had, the first fairly common and the second rare:
I attempted to donate to a charity online, only to discover that the donation form required a salutation, with no gender-neutral option. I emailed the organization, and they helpfully attempted to make their salutation field optional… only to break their entire online donation form. (Thank goodness this would never break a PatronManager donation form.) I gave up and donated to a different organization instead. Both charities worked with vulnerable populations, and I trusted the second organization better to respect their clients’ gender identities, if they could respect that of their donors.
A canvasser for a non-profit caught my attention on the sidewalk, and I knew right away that I wanted to become a sustaining member. But when the canvasser asked for my salutation, I got nervous. “Is salutation required?” I asked. “It’s not!” he said. “And we have the gender-neutral option ‘Mx.’ if you’d prefer.” I was thrilled that the organization could accommodate me, and felt suddenly at ease. When he asked what I was up to that day, I was comfortable being honest: “I’m on my way to the TransTech Summit because I’m trans and work in tech.” “That sounds amazing!” he said. At the end of the interaction, we hugged. It was the warmest, most positive experience I’ve ever had with street canvassing, which tends to get a very bad rap.
Your organization can provide the former experience, or, with very little effort, it can provide the latter. And you won’t just be doing a service to any nonbinary patrons. In discussions about gender data, I’ve heard many women and men, both transgender and cisgender (meaning the same gender one was assigned at birth), express frustration and confusion at having their gender data collected, simply because it seems unnecessary, reductive and invasive.
Even if you believe you have no trans patrons—and you can never actually know!—the following basic steps will help make patrons of all gender identities feel comfortable and welcomed:
- Don’t collect gender data you don’t need. If your organization asks patrons for their gender, consider why and whether this is necessary. Often, gender data is used to inform choices that are actually separate from gender—for instance, what styles of t-shirt to order for an event (instead, ask your patrons whether they prefer fitted or non-fitted t-shirts!) or what pronouns to use with patrons on the phone (instead, ask your patrons for their preferred pronouns!) or what salutation to use in mailings (we’ll get to salutations in a second). None of these require you to know a patron’s gender identity.
- Provide more than two options. If your organization has a specific reason to collect gender data, for instance digitizing actor resumes or making sure you’re showcasing the work of a diverse group of new playwrights, make sure your Gender field is not a picklist with only “Male” and “Female” values—we recommend a text field.
- Be mindful of salutations. Make sure salutation is optional on ticketing, donation and signup forms! Offering but not requiring salutation accommodates both your patrons who feel special and respected when addressed with their salutation and those who feel most respected without one. Meanwhile, add the gender-neutral Mx. to your salutation picklist—some of your patrons will be delighted by the opportunity to select it.
- Use smart formal and informal address names. Make sure your formal and informal salutations and address names don’t require salutations to work. Note: PatronManager can set up a workflow to populate these fields differently depending on whether or not a salutation is present—and if you use another ticketing platform, ask your vendor if they can do this as well.
Thank you for helping and welcoming the trans community!