On -isms: A Small, But Significant Step

By | Thursday, March 02, 2017 Leave a Comment
It should come as no surprise that I'm on a number of comic publisher mailing lists. One of which is DC's newsletter in which they tout their latest releases and sometimes highlight sales of their books on comiXology. They also have contests periodically. They're usually themed somehow; maybe all Batman stuff one time and all villains another. The latest one is for a set of all nine of the variant covers to Justice League of America #1.

I frequently enter these contest because... well, the possibility of free comics! I like to read as much as I can, and there's certainly more out there than my budget allows, so I do try to take advantage of contests and such to pick up books I might not read otherwise.

In any event, DC has been running these contests regularly for some time now, and they've been using pretty much the same form for at least a year, if not longer. It's about what you'd expect: Name, Email, Zip Code... and for demographic purposes, they've got date of birth and gender.

Gender is the interesting one. For however long they've been running contests, the Gender dropdown selector had two options: Male and Female. You could select one or the other. Which, for a lot of people, is fine -- we've all been socialized to see gender in a binary fashion; you're either male or female. (Why male is always listed first is a topic for another discussion.)

But this week, the Gender dropdown field has changed. In addition to Male and Female, they've added an Other category. DC (or at least their marketing department) is basically recognizing that gender isn't just a question of whether or not you were born with a penis. By adding an Other category, it opens up the question to those who don't identify as male or female (whether they are androgynous, hijra, part-way through transitioning, etc.)

Precise statistics are a little hard to come by (thanks in large part to lack of broad social acceptance that leads to fear of self-reporting in studies) but the latest numbers I could find put the US transgender population at 1.4 million -- a little under 1% of the total population. I suspect the actual number is probably closer to double that. And when you factor in that we're only talking about transgender, and not necessarily everyone who might fall under a Gender: Other category, I imagine we're somewhere around 2% of the population.

Not that we should be keeping score -- we should only make accommodations if it impacts X% of the population or something -- but for something like this, there's no reason NOT to make the accommodation, even if it would only impact one or two people. It's not like having to build a wheelchair ramp; the cost of adding an Other category to an existing field is virtually non-existent. But it's importance is in the fact that someone is making a consideration for anyone who isn't male or female. Limiting a gender field to only male and female tells some portion of their audience that they effectively don't exist. Other, while perhaps a clumsy category name, at least says, "We know you're out there, and you're worthy of basic human dignity."

And even though that's a pretty low bar, it's one that many places sadly still can't get past here in 2017. It's a small step here, but DC seems to be trying to move forward.
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