My friend +may may
recently pointed me at a post about agender (http://www.labcoatlingerie.com/2011/06/10/transplant/
) as a followup to a long discussion we had (https://www.noisebridge.net/pipermail/noisebridge-discuss/2009-September/thread.html#7996
) about issues of gender and technology.
It is indeed fairly interesting, as are some of the links from it. For instance, a post about how gender is handled on Diaspora (http://www.sarahmei.com/blog/2010/11/26/disalienation/
) makes me wonder whether/if Google+ could switch to textfield gender plus a dropdown for pronouns. (+Frances Haugen
has already done a great step in that direction by getting gender made to have the same privacy settings as anything else, and of course G+ already allows 'other'.)
UX aside: My suggested flow is this. Start with a blank dropdown, options "Female", "Male", "Other…". Selecting "Female" or "Male" has it work as now.
Selecting "Other…" has it show a focused short text field allowing arbitrary text input, to the right of which is a dropdown labeled "Pronouns:" with the options "Androgynous", "Female", "Male", and "Full name only" (same as +Randall Munroe
's Bucket Gender, http://wiki.xkcd.com/irc/Bucket_Gender
), defaulted to "Androgynous". (I exclude "inanimate" because AFAICT that's intended for bots, not humans. Anyone who identifies as inanimate or prefers the pronoun "it", please comment as I'd like to know more.)
Permissions would be kept as is and applied to the pair (so eg if someone can see it, they see both the text description and the pronoun preference).
This flow shouldn't interrupt those with normative binary gender or cause any software problems with references, while simultaneously supporting people with other genders to express themselves better.
I think that something that trips me up sometimes (like recently…) is that I in many ways I tend to assume agenderedness in a world that is still overwhelmingly culturally gendercentric (and male dominated). +Autumn Tyr-Salvia
once commented on this (noting that I seem to lack the difference in manner of address when talking to folk of different genders that most people do), as have +Audrey Steever
and +V R
(noting that whatever gender I am, it's something unique, and I'm a bit oblivious to that).
I think most liberal folk would like for the world to just not care about gender, orientation, etc. except inasmuch as particular individuals care to express their identity and have that expression respected. However, especially for people who are actively trying to promote a future of equality, there is this catch-22: in order to talk about it as an issue made by others, one necessarily makes it an issue. The term "post-gay" also comes up in this context as ambiguously valenced — on the one hand, it's nice to have one's orientation not made an issue of; on the other, it's still true that a lot of people in the world do have an issue with it, and having allies to fight back is also nice.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with profs at UChicago about their activist pasts, about how actively engaging with the political issues of their day actually helped to propagate the dispute (much like the whole evolution/creation "debate"), and thus they decided to take… orthogonal methods.
This balance between sensitivity to ongoing issues, and moving beyond them to a kind of neutrality where gender, sexuality, etc are simply nonissues except where they're actively embraced as an aspect of someone's identity, is hard for me. I also wonder how much my perspective on this is influenced by being fairly agendered myself — after all, what I see as the future is a bit too conveniently agender-by-default for me not to be suspicious of a bias on my part.