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Gender and LGBTQUIA+ Data Collection Best Practice

This resource covers data collection best practice for:

General Principles

Two of the key principles of the GDPR are helpful to consider here:

Data minimisation

You must ensure that personal data is adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to your processing purpose.

Ask yourself whether you absolutely need the data for your purpose, and only collect the data you need.

For example, if you are collecting title data it should be because you intend to use it to correctly address individuals in the future.

Accuracy

You must take every reasonable step to update or remove data that is inaccurate or incomplete. Individuals have the right to request that you erase or rectify erroneous data that relates to them, and you must do so within a month.

Ask yourself whether your set of responses is sufficient to allow for an accurate response from all individuals.

For example, if you are collecting sexual orientation data with response options of ‘Gay’, ‘Bi’, and ‘Queer’ only, there is no accurate option for respondents who are asexual or heterosexual (as well as others).

 

Best-practice questions

Gender data

There are more than two gender identities, and not everyone identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth (that is, the gender written on their first birth certificate).

Best-practice questions for collecting gender data are:

  • ‘What is your gender?’
  • ‘What gender do you identify as?’
  • A field labelled 'Gender'

You should allow a free text response where possible. This allows all individuals to enter an accurate description of their identity, and avoids othering gender identities which are not included in a limited set.

The following set of response options should be used if you absolutely require a limited set of options for your purpose.

  • Male
  • Female
  • Non-Binary
  • Other
  • Prefer not to say

'Trans' or 'Transgender' is not a gender identity, and should not be included in gender response options. Please see the section below on cis/trans identity data collection.

Gender Assigned at Birth, or Legal Gender Marker data

In very rare circumstances it may be necessary to collect data on the gender people were assigned at birth, or their legal gender marker.

You should be absolutely certain that this data is required for your purpose, and that there is no alternative. For example, knowing the gender marker held by HMRC for an employee for payroll purposes. This data should be held in the strictest confidence.

In this circumstance, you should add a supplementary question which explicitly asks this question:

  • ‘What gender were you assigned at birth?’
  • ‘What is your legal gender marker as held by HMRC?’

You should allow a free text response where possible. The following set of response options should be used if you absolutely require a limited set of options for your purpose.

  • Male
  • Female
  • Other
  • Prefer not to say

You should never ask these questions without also asking for gender data as set out in the section above, as it suggests that you do not consider the gender people identify as valid.

Sexual orientation data

An individual's sexual orientation denotes the set of people that they may be sexually attracted to. Some common sexual orientations include gay, lesbian, bi, heterosexual, and asexual.

Note: Being trans is not a sexual orientation, or a gender identity.

Best-practice questions for collecting sexual orientation data are:

  • ‘What is your sexual orientation?’
  • 'How do you identify your sexual orientation?’
  • A field labelled 'Sexual Orientation'

You should allow a free text response where possible. This allows all individuals to enter an accurate description of their identity, and avoids othering gender identities which are not included in a limited set.

The following set of response options should be used if you absolutely require a limited set of options for your purpose.

  • Asexual / Asexual Spectrum
  • Bi / Bisexual / Bi+
  • Gay
  • Heterosexual
  • Queer
  • Other
  • Choose not to define
  • Prefer not to say

In addition to sexual orientation, individuals have a romantic orientation. An individual's romantic orientation denotes the set of people that they may be romantically attracted to. Romantic orientation follow the naming conventions for sexual orientations, and include homoromantic, biromantic, heteroromantic, and aromantic.

For this reason, and because trans individuals may identify as heterosexual, you should not conflate a response of heterosexual with an individual not being part of the LGBTQUA+ community.

Trans identity data

People who identify as the same gender they were assigned at birth are called 'cis people'. People who identify as a gender different to that which they were assigned at birth are called 'trans people'.

Best-practice questions for collecting cis/trans identity data are:

  • ‘Do you identify as trans?’
  • 'Are you a trans person?'

The following set of response options should be used in each case.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Prefer not to say

Some individuals who meet the simplified definition of trans above may not identify as a trans person. Therefore, if you are using a question such as ‘Do you identify as the gender you were assigned at birth?’ you should take care not to conflate 'No' responses with trans individuals.

Title data

Some people use gendered titles such as Mr, Miss, and Mrs, whilst others use non-gendered titles such as Mx., or use no title. Others use academic titles, military titles, aristocratic titles and so on. This means that a full set of response options may become quite long, and you may wish to consider using a free text response.

Best-practice questions for collecting title data are:

  • ‘What title do you use?’
  • ‘What is your title?’
  • A field labelled Title

You may want to consider using a free text response (ensuring that it accepts a blank entry for those who use no title), however the following set of response options should be used if you require a limited set of options for your purpose.

  • Baron
  • Dame
  • Dr
  • Judge
  • Lady
  • Lord
  • Miss
  • Mr
  • Mrs
  • Ms
  • Mx
  • No title
  • Professor
  • Professor Dame
  • Professor Lord
  • Professor Sir
  • Rabbi
  • Reverend
  • Reverend Dr
  • Reverend Professor
  • Sir

Pronouns data

Pronouns are words that you use in place of a noun, like someone’s name. You can find out more about pronouns, gendered and gender-neutral, in this introductory guide to pronouns.

Best practice questions for collecting pronouns data are:

  • 'What pronouns do you use?'
  • 'What pronouns would you like to be addressed with?'
  • A field labelled Pronouns

You may want to consider using a free text response, however the following set of response options should be used if you require a limited set of options for your purpose.

  • she/her/hers
  • he/him/his
  • they/them/theirs
  • ey/em/eirs
  • xe/xem/xyrs
  • ze/zir/zirs
  • ze/hir/hirs
  • no pronouns
  • other pronouns (with the option to specify where possible)

Where possible, the option should exist to select more than one set of pronouns.

Name

The name a person uses may not match their legal name. For example, they may use their middle name, an Anglicised version of their name, or have changed their name socially but not legally.

You should only ask for a person's legal name if it is absolutely necessary, and accompanied with a question that asks for the name they use. Collecting legal name data without preferred name data suggests you do not recognise the name they use as valid.

Best practice questions for collecting name data are:

  • 'What is your name?'
  • 'What name should we use to refer to you?'
  • A field labelled Name

Where at all possible you should add a clarifying note to confirm that the name given does not have to be their legal name i.e. 'This does not need to be your legal name.'

If you must also collect legal name data (for example, for payroll or travel purposes), you should ask for this explicitly i.e. 'What is your legal name?' and explain why it is required/how the data will be used i.e. 'We must book the airline tickets using travellers' legal names.'

This resource was created as part of the Queering University programme.