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Inclusive Language Guidelines: Gender Identity

For many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, surveys/forms that require responses about biological sex or assigned birth gender and/or neglect to include options related to self-determined gender identity can be alienating and at times present a barrier to participation. To ensure an environment supportive of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, it is essential for University surveys and forms to not perpetuate a sex binary and/or a gender binary of “male” and “female.” The American Journal of Public Health also reports that, “under- or non-representation of transgender individuals in population surveys is a barrier to understanding social determinants and health disparities faced by this population. We recommend using standardized questions to identify respondents with transgender and non-binary gender identities.”

In alignment with this context and following the 2017 recommendations of the Trans and Gender Non-Confirming Task Force, surveys and forms produced by or associated with the University should review the utility of fields and/or demographic queries that provide only binary (M/F) biological sex and/or gender response options, and in all cases should allow respondents to indicate a gender identity representative of their experience and expression. Departments should consider the utility of questions concerning sex/gender/gender identity, establish whether they are legally required and/or instrumentally necessary, and consider replacing or revising binary gender inquiries with a single or supplementary question focused on gender identity (suggested language below).

Surveys approved by the University Survey Committee will follow these guidelines:

  1. In University forms/surveys wherein inquiring about birth sex is legally required or instrumentally necessary, use standard response options of Female; Male when inquiring about birth sex. When possible, add options for Intersex; and Prefer not to respond.
  2. In University forms/surveys wherein it is determined that inquiring about birth sex is legally required or instrumentally necessary, immediately follow this item with a trans-inclusive “Gender Identity” question using the following wording:

    Gender Identity (select all that apply):

    • Woman
    • Man
    • Transgender
    • Non-binary/non-conforming
    • Prefer not to respond

  3. In University forms/surveys wherein it is determined that inquiring about birth sex is not legally required or instrumentally necessary, consider whether this item can be replaced with a trans-­inclusive “Gender Identity” question using the wording above.
  4. In University forms/surveys wherein inquiring about birth sex, gender, and/or gender identity is not legally required and will not provide instrumentally useful information for purposes of service provision or population study, consider revising the form/survey to omit these questions.
  5. University forms/surveys should whenever possible include language ensuring confidentiality of records, contextual information pertaining to the intended use of collected data, and assurances of non-discriminatory use of collected data, for example:
    • This information will only be reported in aggregate.
    • Your individual responses are kept strictly confidential.
    • Providing this information is optional.
    • These data will not be used for a discriminatory purpose.

For ease of access, CSUSM’s recommended survey language for sex and gender identity has been added to the CSUSM Library in Qualtrics. For information on how to locate these questions, visit How to Copy a Question from the CSUSM Library.

In recognition that preferred wording and options in gender identity/expression queries are dynamic and evolving, The University Survey Committee, in collaboration with the Office of Inclusive Excellence, will periodically review and provide updated guidance to campus departments on suggested standard survey/form language related to gender identity and expression.