Creating and promoting a practical and inclusive way to handle gender in software.
Important: This is just the very first, rough draft and always work in progress. Suggestions to improve the language used below is encouraged.
This project is part of (and currently funded by) M14 Industries, a for-profit company who provide a platform for anyone to create their own dating or social app. As such, this project's initial focus is on gender in dating and matchmaking.
Currently, most software is pretty poor at representing gender. Early coding lessons teach gender as a binary male/female, and as a result most modern software does the same. This falls far short of the reality of gender, which is a vast spectrum of identities.
There has been a slow expansion of gender options on websites and apps, such as Facebook and OKCupid, which is great. But this is often just surface dressing. In both of these examples, under the hood the software still operates in very binary ways.
These long lists also throw up issues for matching people (which is where M14, a dating platform, comes into the mix). With a gender binary it’s simple to ask people their gender and if they’re gay, straight, or bi. With a long list, it gets more difficult to match people in a straight-forward way without making assumptions.
Often companies will expand their binary options to include an “other” field. This falls short due to its “othering” of anyone who is outside of the binary, potentially confusing for people who may identify with multiple genders (for example someone may identify as both male and trans-masculine), and difficult for the software to actually interpret and use.
As a dating platform, M14 are tasked with matching people. Often people have very clear views of what they’re interested in when it comes to gender.
Our approach (the basis for the OGP) is to ask people what gender/s they are and what gender/s they’re interested in. Both being freetext, with the ability to enter multiple options.
We then use a public list of synonyms to match people.
We don’t need the results of the gender matching to be exact, we just need it to be inclusive. It’s better to include people you’re not interested in than miss someone out.
For example: if you say you’re interested in men, we’ll show you cis-men and trans-men. If you say you’re interested in trans-men, we wouldn’t show you cis-men.
We intend to create simple open source libraries and an API to help developers create gender options suitable for the modern world. These will be used by M14, and anyone else who wants to use them. For more information on these please subscribe to the newsletter.
All code will be released under the GLGP license, unless we find a more suitable one.
If you'd like to know more about M14 you can visit m14.industries, and if you'd like to get in touch with us please email firstname.lastname@example.org.