Most individual surveys ask a question about one’s gender or sex (and many conflate these two constructs as being one and the same). Researchers–especially those of us who develop surveys–often have a difficult time determining the most helpful categories for analysis. This is particularly true for those of us in the UCC who strive to be as inclusive as possible.
The identifying question of gender assists analysts in determining if there are differences in certain survey questions. In other words, we want to know if gender is a factor in survey responses. And in order for our data to be reliable and valid, it helps to have large samples within each gender category. For example, adding more categories to the gender question may actually decrease the validity of the data (though there are ways to adjust for this). And many researchers, in order to avoid creating a number of categories, simply offer a space for individuals to write in their gender self-identifications. For those of us charged with keeping denominational records in a database with defined fields, that is not as feasible.
So, how has the Center for Analytics, Research and Data (CARD) responded to this quandary?
This fall, we included another category on our ministerial information forms and in our denominational database that will move us toward greater inclusion of all authorized ministers in the UCC (while recognizing that we are nowhere near “there” yet). So, under “Gender,” we have included the identification of “Transgender/Gender-Variant.” This change was made in consultation with the Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Authorization (MESA) Team, who are in the process of developing a search and call database and who had wrestled with this issue as well (and are using the designation “Gender-Variant” for their database).
Besides signaling a commitment to greater inclusion, the hope is that adding this category to our reporting forms will remove some of the stigma for these ministers in the search and call process and normalize the understanding throughout the church that there are ministers who identify beyond the gender binary of man/male or woman/female. Consequently, with time, we also hope these ministers will be more likely to disclose their gender without fear of negative consequences or discrimination.
If you are interested in learning more about creating inclusive gender categories on forms, applications and surveys, here are a few links to check out:
Creating GLBTQIA-Inclusive Forms: Suggestions For Policy And Implementation (WA Gender Project)
Collecting Information on Gender Identity (UK Equality and Human Rights Commission)
How can I make the gender question on an application form more inclusive? (It’s Pronounced Metrosexual)