Falsehoods programmers believe about gender

Mal Pinder
Feb 7, 2016 · 3 min read

[This post contains transphobic, cissexist, and/or binarist tropes. Take care of yourself.]

In the spirit of Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names, Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Time, and another shorter post with the same subject as this one (which now sadly seems to have been taken down).

Many of these falsehoods aren’t things that only programmers believe, but widespread societal misconceptions. However, it’s the people who are building our apps and databases, registration forms, data-mining software, advert targeting algorithms - programmers, but also designers, UX specialists, product managers and many more - who have the power to change how gender is represented within those systems.


  1. There are two genders.
  2. There are a finite number of genders.
  3. There are two important genders and everyone else can be considered ‘other’.
  4. ‘Transgender’ is a special kind of gender and should be listed alongside other genders.
  5. There are two ‘biological’ sexes.
  6. The ‘biological’ sexes are distinct from each other and easy to tell apart.
  7. ‘Biological sex’ and gender are interchangeable.
  8. ‘Biological sex’ is more important or more real than gender.
  9. Every country recognises the same genders as my country does.
  10. People are male by default.
  11. Every person has one gender.
  12. Every person has at least one gender.
  13. Every person knows what their gender is.
  14. A person’s gender for legal purposes and their actual gender are interchangeable.
  15. It is better to use a person’s legal gender than their actual gender.
  16. Everyone has documentation to prove their gender.
  17. A person’s gender is always consistent across all forms of documentation.
  18. A person will always want to show themselves as the same gender in every situation.
  19. ‘Legal gender’ means the same thing in every situation.
  20. A person’s legal gender is the same in every country.
  21. Everyone’s gender is specified as soon as they are born.
  22. Everyone’s gender is specified as soon as they are born, even though it might turn out to be wrong later.
  23. All genders have both adjective and noun forms (e.g. female/woman).
  24. All genders have a specific pronoun (e.g. woman/she).
  25. All genders have a set of titles(e.g. man/mister).
  26. All genders can be conveyed by symbols and social cues such as hair length or clothing shape.
  27. A person’s gender is translatable into other languages.
  28. There are no gender-neutral titles.
  29. There are no gender-neutral pronouns.
  30. There are gender neutral pronouns, but you shouldn’t use them for individuals because they would confuse people.
  31. There are gender-neutral pronouns in every language.
  32. You can tell a person’s gender from their title.
  33. You can tell a person’s gender from their name.
  34. You can tell a person’s gender from their pronouns.
  35. You can tell a person’s gender from their behaviour or interests.
  36. You can tell a person’s gender from their physical attributes, such as shoe size or if they menstruate.
  37. You can tell a person’s behaviour or interests from their gender.
  38. You can tell a person’s physical attributes from their gender.
  39. A person’s gender doesn’t change.
  40. A person’s gender will only change once.
  41. A person’s gender will only change infrequently.
  42. When a person’s gender changes they will have documentation to prove it.
  43. It’s important to display something about a person’s gender history.
  44. It’s important to display something if legal gender or ‘biological sex’ doesn’t match someone’s actual gender.
  45. It’s not a big problem if the wrong gender is stored or displayed for a person.
  46. A person’s gender is always important to know about.
  47. A person’s previous or legal genders are always important to know about.
  48. A person’s gender is public information and it can be shared freely.
  49. A person’s legal gender or birth assignment is public information and it can be shared freely.
  50. This list is exhaustive.

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