What's the purpose of the gender field?

On the alpha version of the app, we started out with an entirely unlimited gender-field. On mine, I set an unicorn emoji. I think by now, gender is limited to three choices: Man/Woman/Non-binary. As I understand it, the main drive behind this is the option to provide gender-specific site features and filters. I’m wondering if this approach is a good idea?

When the gender field is just free-form, it’s basically some self-assigned information I give to other members, similar to what I write on my profile.

When we use that field as a building block for features we have to validate and restrict it’s values. Giving the history of gender limitations, forced assignments,… is that really a direction we should take?

Another aspect: would it indeed be a good block to build automatic features? I guess the main model is a platform like Host-a-Sister. But as far as I know, there’s no automated membership for that group at all. It’s just moderated by humans. Maybe that group approach would be the better model in general?

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Why not take a neutral stance and simply allow all users to filter any gender they want?

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Why is everything about the hiding option now? I don’t care about it. I do care about search filters very much though. When there are 2000 guys and 2 girls in a city (seriously, real life example) and I want to find the girls, should I scroll through all 2002 profiles?

@tonga246 suggested not displaying the gender already. Or it can be optional to display it, like it’s often done with age on different platforms (I personally prefer this way). Can it be a solution?

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This would be abused by men.

I actually don’t understand why that’s so bad. Preferred gender is just info, it doesn’t make people stay with you. If anything, “preferred gender - female” on a guys profile is more of a turn off, and at least will make you more careful.

I meant that if men can use a filter to search specifically for women hosts, or can choose to show their profile only to women, these features would be abused by men.

But I am of the opinion women should be allowed to show their profile only to other women (if they enable this option in their profile – this option would be private and not be displayed for other people to see). I know of several women who don’t currently host who would be open to hosting if they could choose to show their profile only to other women (similar to what HostASister does).

As for publicly indicating a preference on your profile in terms of which gender you prefer to host, that is a feature frequently used for the purposes of dating. Of course anyone can just write their preferences in the “about me” section of their profile, but in my opinion, I don’t think we should be creating a non-essential feature on the profile that can and will be used to help people use the platform for dating.

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I actually agree with you as far as men/women goes, but if there’s a third gender in the system (non-binary) it becomes more complicated.

Would you allow women to hide from/not receive requests from/ non-binary people as well?

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I think the idea is to keep non-binary people included at all times?

You can’t assume that’s a turn off for all women… Some women may be looking for exactly that kind of experience. What if that leads to Couchers becoming a (consensual) dating platform?

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If they are, what’s the problem? I thought we were concerned about safety here

That’s essentially the issue why I opened this topic. If we use the gender marker as an input field for features related to trust and safety, we change the purpose and idea of that field.

Without such use, we can have this field as a free-form self-assignment. I as a user am telling other members, hey, that’s me, that’s how I see myself and want to be seen.

With putting it to such use, Couchers as a platform tells members: That’s the gender of this user.

I think that’s quite problematic and we should rather look at other ways to build such features.

I feel like a problem could arise if that starts becoming an expectation and leads to a larger proportion of users using Couchers for dating. That would make it potentially unsafe (or, at best, off-putting) for people who don’t want to use the platform for dating.

There were some interesting discussions about this a while back in this thread.

@nolo, can you elaborate on why it’s problematic for the platform to tell other members that “this is the gender of this user” (if it has been agreed upon and clearly stated* that this is done for the purposes of safety)? Is the concern that the “Woman/Man/Non-binary” trio is not inclusive enough for all gender identities? Or are you finding another concern?

*with e.g. an informational message upon inputting one’s gender

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Yeah, I saw other threads on this topic also, the ones where people suggested options to clearly state if you are looking for dates. That sounds encouraging indeed and I’m very happy nobody really liked the idea. But is it the same for having all genders in search/preferences? Especially since they were already there on CS and it won’t come out as “wow, they gave us a new tool for dating!”

Idk, we might have different experiences, I didn’t find CS that bad as it was. And now there’s going to be an improved reference system, an option to hide your profile, and also the ways to eliminate flirtatious messages/users are discussed. I feel that could be enough.

Also, I wouldn’t be that keen on it if there was a good alternative. But what can it be? Remove any gender filters and preferences? That sounds much more harmful than helpful to me.
And I don’t really like the choice between “any” and “same gender”, not only because of non-binary folks being left out, but also because it still kinda sends you a message “men are creeps”. I mean, @nolo here already wants his gender to be “unicorn” instead of “male” because he feels “male” has too many negative connotations (Nolo, hope I didn’t get you wrong). Why make all the nice guys feel ashamed of themselves or annoyed? I believe they are still the majority.

added All that said, I kinda continue to discuss it with myself and also start wondering if “preferred gender” is worth the trouble :joy: I think we could ask the girls who used it if it actually worked. And maybe really give that option only to girls. But I think the search should be there by any means, and it can be all-gender.

Yeah, Jesse, sorry, I mixed up the topics by mistake.
Anyway, I’m not sure it’s non-essential. I can ask a girl who used it if she really was getting fewer requests from men. Maybe smb else has friends who enabled it. If it does help, I think it should be there.

Why not! But it shouldn’t be the only option to find girls in the search or to state your preferences, that’s my point.
I thought it would be “same gender only” as in women only see women, men - men, non-binary - non-binary. I mean, if “same gender” for women also includes NB people, won’t all the creepy men suddenly become non-binary?

I kinda feel building features upon it IS the whole idea of the field. There are pronouns for just statement.

I totally get that it’s a possibility, but would that actually be a widespread practice? If you can only change your gender by manually contacting admins, that would really reduce the chance of misuse. And I doubt that the majority of ill-intentioned men would be diligent enough to read the rules of the platform, understand that Non-Binary will allow them “access” to women-only events, and therefore sign up on the platform with a false gender. Plus, those who do end up doing that would be reported basically as early as they meet someone in person. For me, the benefits of not excluding NB individuals far outweigh that risk. But only time will tell.

Well, they are diligent enough to find girls and write hi to each of them… I wouldn’t underestimate them really😂

My understanding also is that the hiding option could be very useful for women where it’s just culturally inappropriate to interact with male strangers (Muslim, to some extent Asian). I guess they would want to hide their profiles from everyone who, well, looks male, even if they don’t define themselves as such.

I’m really sorry for advocating against non-binary folks! Just speaking out my mind, maybe I’m very wrong

I do wonder how comfortable nonbinary people would feel staying with a host who has the preference to only host women. Same goes for nonbinary people hosting surfers who only want to stay with women hosts. It seems like women who would use the feature would probably have set expectations for who they would want to be interacting with, so it could be uncomfortable for everyone involved if the person isn’t within those expectations. I know I’d feel uncomfortable if I went to stay with a host and it was clear that I wasn’t who she was expecting or was comfortable hosting lol!

Maybe it could be like check boxes, where in the settings area when women choose the option to hide their profile based on gender they can choose between [x]only show my profile to women
[x]only show my profile to women and nonbinary people

The profile hiding option is definitely separate from the gender filter feature. Should Couchers have just the profile hiding option or both?

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Okay, but you could similarly argue that certain cis women, who have chosen to show their profile to only women, could feel uncomfortable with a non-passing trans woman interacting or surfing with them. That doesn’t mean that we should allow cis women to exclude trans women from their interaction circles. Similarly, we shouldn’t allow cis women to automatically exclude non-binary individuals (who may pass as more masculine or more feminine) when hosting or surfing. You can always take a deeper dive into a person’s profile and judge whether you would be comfortable with them.

My current personal preference (which is fluid given all these discussions) is:

  • separate the gender filter feature (for hosting and surfing), the gender filter feature for hangouts, and with the gender filter feature for who one shows their profile to. (i.e. 3 separate possibilities).
  • allow women to show their profile only to women (perhaps in that case excluding Non Binary individuals is okay as a checkbox option, since this will cater to a very specific population of women)
  • for the people who don’t use the Hide feature, allow the hosting status to be automated so that the “Request” button doesn’t appear for the populations that they are not comfortable staying with.
  • for that feature, don’t allow excluding non-binary individuals for hosting and surfing. Women can choose “Women an NB only” or “any gender” and men can choose “Men and NB only” or “any gender.” I believe that ill-intentioned people who try to abuse this situation by faking their gender would be quickly reported.
  • for searching on the map, anyone can filter for any gender. Yes, that can mean that certain individuals will selectively reach out and try to harass people of a certain sex, but there can be other measures in place (profile hiding, filtering low quality messages, and inclusively-designed preferred gender options for hosting) to prevent that.

What do others think?

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Because we will end up to tell some members “Hey, this is not your gender”, or “you can’t state this gender”, or even just “you have to state your gender”. That’s why I think we should stay clear of building automated features that are just based on the gender field.

Idk, for me personally stating my gender is a political statement: I want to live in a diverse society, be part of a diverse community. I don’t want society be organized by gender. That’s what I’d like to state and it’s not related to pronouns.

Though certainly the option to filter would also be a feature:

And I’d favor Couchers having only the filter option. Let users filter for gender, a field that can hold any value. Then look for different solutions to build safety features.

Because I think the option to hide profiles is in the end rather complex. To base it on one or two check-boxes, we’ll be making a bunch of implicit decisions on behalf of users. But there’s a design principle to build consensual software: don’t assume implicit consent, ask for explicit confirmation.

If we want to do that, to me something more like a group, based on explicit membership, seems to offer better options.

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Should political statements go before safety on a hospex platform? After all, you have your profile text and blank field in pronouns to write anything you wish.

If everyone goes creative and puts unicorns and stuff there, how will the filter work? Show me unicorns and don’t show goblins?

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No, and I’d say that’s not what I’ve been arguing. I’m very much for building safety features. But I gave a personal example why I wouldn’t want to state my gender as “Man”, but at the same time don’t think I should be part of a “Women only” feature. @tonga246 gave a different personal reason. So I guess there will be potentially more than these two.

Overall, I think we can’t embrace gender diversity on one hand - and then build a feature on top of it that basically works on a binary distinction. It’s like saying: “Ok, these diverse markers are all nice and fancy. But for the sake of safety, let’s please get real: are you in the women group, or in the men group?”

Yes, why not? For the same argument as above: I think gender is a good marker of and for diversity. But it’s a bad single metric to divide a community into functional groups. Better to do that with membership based groups in the first place. Like:

  • I want to be member of the group “women hosting and staying with women”
  • I want to exclusively engage on Couchers as member of this group