For data's sake: dilemmas in the measurement of gender minorities

Cult Health Sex. 2018 Dec;20(12):1362-1377. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2018.1437220. Epub 2018 Mar 13.


Gender-minority health disparity research is limited by binary gender measurement practices. This study seeks to broaden current discourse on gender identity measurement in the USA, including measurement adoption challenges and mitigation strategies, thereby allowing for better data collection to understand and address health disparities for people of all genders. Three data sources were used to triangulate findings: expert interviews with gender and sexuality research leaders; key-informant interviews with gender minorities in New Orleans, LA; and document analysis of relevant surveys, guides and commentaries. Ten key dilemmas were identified: 1) moving beyond binary gender construction; 2) conflation of gender, sex and sexual orientation; 3) emerging nature of gender-related language; 4) concerns about item sensitivity; 5) research fatigue among gender minorities; 6) design and analytical limitations; 7) categorical and procedural consistency; 8) pre-populated vs. open-field survey items; 9) potential misclassification; and 10) competing data collection needs. Researchers must continue working toward consensus concerning better practices is gender measurement and be explicit about their methodological choices. The existence of these dilemmas must not impede research on important health issues affecting gender minorities.

Keywords: Measurement; USA; gender minority; gender non-conformity; transgender.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States