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It's a hassle to write he/she, him/her, his/her when you refer to a member whose gender is unknown. So I suggest gender be added to the profile page of a member.

EDIT(Aug. 19, 2003) Since some members don't want to make their gender public, I would like to suggest the following feature request.

There be the following options regarding gender of a member in the profile page.

  1. male

  2. female

  3. unspecified(default)

If you choose the option 3, you are not supposed to complain when you are referred to he(or she).

Remark The option 3 is default. This prevents people from guessing that a person who chooses it is female.

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    $\begingroup$ Please tell me why you disagree with the request. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '13 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ This would make no difference in many cases, as certain people (myself included) would not fill it in. Just call people by their name, or alternate between calling them male and female (this keeps people on their toes!). Call the OP the OP. $\endgroup$ – user1729 Aug 18 '13 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729 For example, when I called a member "she" whose name is Leslie, I was told that he was male. This conversation would be better avoided. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '13 at 10:52
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    $\begingroup$ WP: Gender-specific and gender-neutral pronouns, Singular they. In fact, I've learned about them here at MSE, see this older discussion. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 18 '13 at 11:57
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    $\begingroup$ I downvoted this. First, as I do not consider it as useful. And, second, as it is a bit more complicated. One rather could not only ask "m or f" at least there ought to be the option of not declaring it preserved (which then would not really solve the problem to be solved completely), but likely this would not even be sufficient. And, if somebody wishes to make their gender known it is easy enough via mentioning something in "about" for example. $\endgroup$ – quid Aug 18 '13 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ I have to admit, it is a bit irritating when people say "Thanks dude!" and "Thanks for the help, man!"...but as irritating as it is, I like the profiles the way they are now. Putting a gender field into profiles almost strikes as a dating forum. Now that I think about it, those are the only types of forums that make any real effort to clarify the gender of its users (that I know of). $\endgroup$ – Ataraxia Aug 18 '13 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that this would help us with grammar. OTOH as evidenced by the responses in this discussion many women don't want to disclose their femininity in the internet. Doing so exposes them to unwelcome advances, threats even. Or if not that, draws attention to their gender and away from their math. Our grammatical difficulties do not carry much weight in comparison to their safety, so I oppose this suggestion. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 18 '13 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak I researched about gender neutral pronouns before. You can use "they" when you refer to a generic person like everyone or anybody. However, I don't think it's a proper use of "they" when you refer to a specific person. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '13 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato: See this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they $\endgroup$ – Thomas Aug 18 '13 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Thomas It's long. Could you tell me which part? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '13 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato: I didn't read the whole article, but I was just giving you a reference for the use of singular they. There doesn't seem to be anything on this page that says that it can only be generic. Specifically it says in the beginning that they can be used when the gender is indeterminate. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Aug 18 '13 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato: I am no language expert. The Wikipedia article does, however, point out that there is a proper use for singular they when used in a situation when the gender is indeterminate. It might not be the most common, but it exists. That is the last I have to say about it. Maybe you should try to ask on english.SE about this. If you don't like the they options, I am sure you can think of other ways of referring to people with unknown gender. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Aug 18 '13 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Thomas: I linked that in my answer, and Martin Sleziak linked that in a previous comment. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '13 at 22:19
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    $\begingroup$ This is a rather insensitive suggestion. Gender should not be construed as a binary option. Google+ attempted to fix this by adding a third option, "other", which leaves quite a bit to be desired. theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/07/… $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo Aug 19 '13 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ Well, the edit to the proposal did improve it in terms of sensitivity to members' needs. OTOH adding that third option makes it kinda moot. Anyone who thinks their gender is relevant and wants to disclose it can already do so in their profile. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 19 '13 at 4:21
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You can write "they".

I don't think that the feature request is very good, and this discussion might help to shed some light on the topic. (In a nutshell, the presence of female users online is still often accompanied by harassment.)

Moreover, much like many users won't fill in their real name, there's no reason to believe that people would bother to fill in this field in the profile, or their true gender if they do.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think so. You can write "they" when you refer to a generic person like everyone, anybody. However, I don't think it's proper use of "they" when you refer to a specific person. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '13 at 10:46
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    $\begingroup$ If you recall the OP of this post, they have commented above me. $\endgroup$ – user1729 Aug 18 '13 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729: They sure did! :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '13 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ I still prefer switching gender. If the guy I am referring to is offended then she can tell me. $\endgroup$ – user1729 Aug 18 '13 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ @user1729 I think that's a hassle. Please think about these kind of things happen all the time. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '13 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ @user1729: English is easy. In Hebrew a lot of the words have a gender difference (usually a suffix for the female form). It's sometimes easy to forget this is not the case in other languages. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '13 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto: You are free to think that. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '13 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato My switching gender idea wasn't really meant as serious. However, I entirely agree with Asaf's answer (although I suspect discrimination is not going to be rife here). $\endgroup$ – user1729 Aug 18 '13 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe this question would be a good candidate for migration to Meta English StackExchange, since a positive response to the request would require a system-wide change anyway. I'm sure users there would have very informed opinions to share on this matter, @MakotoKato, what do you think? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Gruber Aug 18 '13 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander: Perhaps a fresh thread would be better? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 18 '13 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexanderGruber I want this question to stay here. Anybody is free to ask the same question there. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 18 '13 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila [You can write "they".] Have you used "they" when you refer to a member whose gender is unknown? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 19 '13 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Makoto: Yes. I often use "the OP" or "the answerer"; but I have used "they". No, I don't have any links at my disposal with examples of that use. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 19 '13 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato: Yes, that is the preferred standard. Personally, it has happened when I discuss, for example, answers posted by pseudonymous users in MO. (Cannot currently provide a link, though, as it is part of a text in preparation that keeps not being quite done.) $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo Aug 19 '13 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Makoto: Because I can only answer honestly questions that I can imagine. You can equally ask me if I would eat a man if we were stranded in the international space station. It's highly improbable that I'll get there, and even then that we get stranded. So I don't know what to tell you. If the situation came that I have exhausted my other options, I might use "they" and I might change the paragraph so I won't have to. I DON'T KNOW, BECAUSE I CAN'T IMAGINE THAT SORT OF SITUATION. If you want me to start lying to you, please let me know. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Aug 19 '13 at 20:41
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I think the feature would still be uncomfortable to use. This is because you need to check the profile of everyone whom you write a comment to. I rarely check the profiles of people I am writing comments to. I also guess that many users would share this habit with me.

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  • $\begingroup$ I beg to differ in the sense that I nearly always check the profile of whoever I am answering to. How else could I try to, e.g. ascertain the level of an answer? Granted in those cases where this bit of information would be the most useful, the profile will often not contain any information at all. Also, the question/answer itself contains many clues about the desired level. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 19 '13 at 4:15
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    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen yes, it was just a guess and it turns out to be false in your case. $\endgroup$ – Amr Aug 19 '13 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ Can't argue with that :-) $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 19 '13 at 6:13

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