Ask users for Gender or sex

This pattern explains how to ask users about gender or sex.

When to use this pattern

You should only ask users about gender or sex if you genuinely cannot provide your service without this information.

If you do need to ask, use ‘sex’ when you need biological data (for example, if you’re providing a medical service). In all other cases, use ‘gender’.

How it works

If you have to ask about gender, you should:

  • list the fields in alphabetical order
  • do research to test that this works for your users

Avoid using pronouns

You should address the user as ‘you’ where possible and avoid using gendered pronouns like ‘he’ and ‘she’.

You may not always be able to use ‘you’. For example, if your service allows people to jointly apply for something, you might need to refer to both the user and the person they’re applying with. In these cases, use the person’s name, ‘they’ or ‘their’.

Never use titles to guess gender

Do not guess someone’s gender based on a title because:

  • some people use titles that are not gendered - for example Dr, Rev, Major or Mx
  • people can decide what title they want to use, without going through a formal process

Research on this pattern

More research is needed on the best way to ask for gender. If you ask users for their gender as part of your service, get in touch to share your user research findings.

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