Shallow Questions? Questions on Gender By Stacey Kelly

Posted By on September 24, 2015

This is a repost of an article by my friend, artist, and designer of my Futurist logo, Stacey Kelly – ‘Shallow Questions? Questions on Gender By Stacey Kelly.’. The original post can be seen here.

In the UK many organisations such as universities and the Lib Dem party are rethinking the use of Gender tick boxes on forms, because no matter how much social progress we make around transforming gender ideas/roles we all still have to tick that identifying box and conform or subscribe when applying for something new. “Are you Male or female?” Is it becoming a shallow question?

Although an application form is really a fleeting moment in most cases, the basic questions can set a societal precedent and are in some ways representative of the dated way in which we harvest data. It has been suggested that instead we use a dotted line for applicants to write a sentence describing their gender. If you identify as a  “bigendered, polyamorous ally” rather then say… female, would that information suddenly become more interesting then the other fields on the form such as your relevant experience to the role or position? If an employer or organisation cannot determine what your (let’s say…) “current physical” gender is are they less likely to invite you to interview based on uncertainty or ambiguity.

Perhaps abstracting gender information on application forms is a catalyst to close the gender gap in less then the 75 years predicted by a United Nations report released in March 2015. The adaptation of application forms generally lies in the hands of the employers themselves and so it could become a simple way to define your organisation as inclusive or even radical to potential employees. Of course, painting a more detailed picture of your gender or sexuality to potential employers before meeting them, may dredge up obvious issues and perhaps in certain cases open a wider window for prejudice, but if the goal is to offer the same achievements in equality for the LGBT community to the wider (and expanding) LGBTTIQQ2SA community, then perhaps it is a window that must be not only be opened, but also left open to aerate some rather stagnated ideologies. Sexuality is not something we should be apprehensive to express because it can abstract our ideas of gender. For a hypothetical individual with chronic gender dysphoria, an application form may be part of their decision to start a new life in a new role/location and that tick box is crucial to the future of their identity. The little asterisk registering a tick box a mandatory field has perhaps, subtly been one of the more oppressive areas of our professional processes.

Eventually employers will become so used to this form of diverse response to questions of gender that the novelty will become moribund. For me this renders the process of ‘gender tick box removal’ in favour of a ‘field for detailed gender description’  a potential “generational utilitarian sacrifice” a pain we go through so that future generations may experience less pain. Hey, we will always have the option to leave it blank should the jury be out on such a matter.


Nikolas Badminton is a world-respected futurist speaker that researches, speaks, and writes about the future of work, how technology is affecting the workplace, how workers are adapting, the sharing economy, and how the world is evolving. He appears at conferences in Canada, USA, UK, and Europe. Email him to book him for your radio, TV show, or conference.

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