dA CEO Talks Sex and Gender
For those of you that were group members at least 5 months ago, you'll recall that #LGBT-on-dA
and its admin (me, ~kproductions
) were the first to blow the whistle on deciantART's redaction of a third gender choice in users' settings. It was a change that came with dA v7, and I originally noticed the change as I was changing my settings in the then-new iteration of deviantART.
Historically, deviantART had allowed new and current members three options for gender. They were "Male," "Female," and "Unspecified." With v7, the third option was deleted and the settings panel said that if anyone currently described as "Unspecified" were to change their preference to Male or Female, "Unspecified" would vanish from their options. Everyone else that had already chosen Male or Female simply lost the option altogether without any say in the matter and all new members were to be presented with only two options.
I took issue with this, being transgendered, so I made a news article
, and forum post
, and included this screenshot
in all three. The news of the change spread rapidly as it became a viral issue across the site and was re-posted by oodles of members, most memorably by Ahuviya Harel (who is also transgendered).
After about five days of cyber-protests, a staff member (`kit-y
) alerted me to a change in the settings. The third option was still gone, but a new option had been introduced. Deviants could now choose to hide their gender selection from the public. `kit-y
is not a part of the department that made that decision or programmed the change so she couldn't speak to the motivation of the change, but we took it as a victory.
With this development most of the anger and hurt subsided from dA members and the issue was largely forgottn, despite the major compromise.
A few days ago, people began to become more and more aware of this issue again (I noticed when I suddenly started getting a ton of new notifications about comments on my news article after months of near-silence) and it has again become a very heated issue. This time, +spyed
himself, dA's Chief Executive Officer, has posted publicly on the issue (special thanks to staff member $danlev
for telling me the good news and sending a link my way).
He has educated himself on the meaning of Gender versus Sex, and will be changing the wording in the settings to "Sex" rather than "Gender" to be more straightforward about the option. Additionally, he feels that there should be a third option, but that "Unspecified" is somewhat offensive. dA staff are currently working on workable a resolution.Update: The three available options are now "Male," "Female" and "Other." On top of that, there's a completely separate section for gender now, so that transgendered individuals can fully express their identity. The option to hide one's sex still exists, also, and sex and gender can be changed at any time by the user. AND (best part, in my book) the dA system will now refer to users' by their preferred gender, rather than their physical sex.
Below is the full text of +spyed
's post, including a link to the original.Click here for his original blog post.
I woke up this morning to some angered members regarding our sign-up process and it's misunderstanding of the term "Gender."
I looked in to it, and we clearly made a mistake when we changed our sign up process a few months back. We used to permit members to sign up and specify a gender of either:
And in our new version, we only permit "Male" or "Female."
When we made this change, we intended the definition of the term SEX and not GENDER, but we used GENDER to define the form field. Here's what I've learned today, and I'd like to share it in order to spread the good word and expand understanding regarding gender issues and inequalities out there in the world.
But first, we will be updating our sign-up forms to refer to "SEX" rather than "GENDER." In hindsight, "Unspecified" is offensive, and Male or Female as the only options was downright ignorant when referring to Gender.
I highly recommend you read wikipedia's entry on Gender if you haven't done so already or aren't completely clear on the subject and its importance to the transgender community. Here's the first paragraph to get you started...en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genders
Gender is a set of characteristics that are seen to distinguish between male and female. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity. In 1955, sexologist John Money introduced the terminology distinction between biological sex and gender as a role; before his work, it was uncommon to use gender to refer to anything but grammatical categories.
However, Money's meaning of the word did not become widespread until the 1970s, when feminist theory embraced the distinction between biological sex and the social construct of gender. Today, the distinction is strictly followed in some contexts, like feminist literature, and in documents written by organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), but in most contexts, even in social sciences, the meaning of gender has expanded to include sex or even to replace the latter word. Although this gradual change in the meaning of gender can be traced to the 1980s, a small acceleration of the process in the scientific literature was observed when Food and Drug Administration started to use gender instead of sex in 1993. Gender is now commonly used even to refer to the physiology of nonhuman animals, without any implication of social gender roles.
In the English literature, the trichotomy between biological sex, psychological gender, and social sex role first appeared in a feminist paper on transsexualism in 1978. Some cultures have specific gender-related social roles that can be considered distinct from male and female, such as the hijra of India and Pakistan.
While the social sciences sometimes approach gender as a social construct, and gender studies particularly do, the natural sciences, regard biological and behavioral differences in males and females as influencing the development of gender in humans; both inform debate about how far biological differences influence gender identity formation.... read more on Wikipedia![When asked why sex was still required to begin with, +spyed responded thus: "pretty common thing that networks ask for... there are lots of neat features that can be built with it, including better targeting for art works. sucks to be categorized, but actually.. it's pretty useful data in the end!"]
UPDATE[While I was composing this blog post, +spyed made an addition to his blog. After discussing the issue with users, he doesn't see a need to add an "Other" option to sex, HOWEVER he and his staff are looking into a customizable gender option on users' public profiles to allow for any form of transgendered expression. This is big news and WAY better than before! Here is his addition:]
Update @ 4:15pm.
Upon further discussions with the participants in this Journal, we've decided there's no reason not to add "Other" to the Male/Gender drop down during sign-up now dubbed "Sex."
In addition, I will also be exploring a "Gender" setting in the "About Me" section of each profile that can be set by any member and it may contain transgender and other sexual and gender preferences in order to better welcome the diverse member base of deviantART and enable better community interactions in the future so that members may find each other based on gender preference so long as that information is public.
This topic today has been entirely welcomed as far as I'm concerned, as I think it really brings about a healthy conversation for all of us to have and it raises awareness on under-represented matters that people in our world face.
deviantART is a platform for free expression and exploration and discussion of all things, so please know that none of these errors on our part were made with any malice towards the transgender community or otherwise.
Keep the comments coming! I look forward to reading what you have to say on this topic! If you continue to have concerns regarding the term "Other" then please air them here I'm happy to look at them.
(Changes discussed/proposed to take effect within an hour or so. More modifications possible as needed.)
When dA v7 was introduced on May 18th of this year, the ability to choose "Unspecified" as a gender option was taken away. After a lot of fuss, dA still required Male/Female but allowed members to hide their choice. Recently it's become an issue again, so dA's CEO has directly addressed the issue. The term "Gender" in the settings has been changed to "Sex
" to be more straightforward (since gender
are not the same thing) and an "Other" category has been added under sex. dA will soon be allowing for transgender expression in new gender
options on users' profiles and dA will from now on refer to members by their gender preference rather than their physical sex. The option to hide one's sex still exists.(By the way, the date for this entire blog post changes with every update I make. If you're curious when this was originally posted, the timestamps for the first comments is more accurate.)