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Gender and Sexuality Questions on the UC Davis Graduate Application

Why did UC Davis add questions pertaining to gender identity and sexual orientation to the Graduate Application?

On October 8, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 620, which includes a request that UC provide the opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to report their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression on any forms used to collect demographic data.

In 2012, then UC President Mark Yudof created and charged the Task Force & Implementation Team on LGBT Climate and Inclusion (LGBT Task Force) with developing priorities, strategies, and expected resource requirements to advance recommendations submitted by the LGBT Working Group of the President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate and Inclusion. On May 30, 2014, the LGBT Task Force presented a report to UC President Janet Napolitano with a recommendation to implement AB 620.

In September 2014, UC President Janet Napolitano formed the President’s Advisory Council on LGBT Students, Faculty, and Staff, which is comprised of faculty, LGBT Center staff, students, and community experts. They were charged with making the UC system a gold standard for LGBT issues, and to provide recommendations for the implementation of AB 620 by collecting data on gender identity and sexual orientation through the admission application. 

Providing the LGBT community with the option to self-identify supports the University’s priorities of creating an inclusive and welcoming campus environment across the UC system. Including these questions on the graduate application will signal to applicants that UC is an inclusive environment and that the LGBT community is part of it. As with all other demographic questions on the admission application, providing gender identity and sexual orientation data will be voluntary, optional, and as required by law, not impact admission decisions.

What is the wording of the gender identity and sexual orientation questions?

Gender Identity

1) How do you describe yourself?

  • Male
  • Female
  • Trans Male/Trans Man
  • Trans Female/Trans Woman
  • Genderqueer/Gender Non-Conforming
  • Different Identity (please specify)

2) What sex were you assigned at birth, such as on an original birth certificate?

  • Male
  • Female
  • Decline to state

Sexual Orientation

Do you consider yourself to be:

  • Heterosexual or straight
  • Gay or lesbian
  • Bisexual
  • Not listed above (please specify)

How were the gender identity questions developed?

The Transgender Health Advocacy Coalition in Philadelphia, PA developed the two-step question protocol for gender identity data collection in 1997. The Center of Excellence for Transgender Health and UC San Francisco began advocating the use of the two-step protocol in 2007, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopted it in 2011. The two-step method was also cognitively tested by two research teams as part of the Williams Institute’s research on best practices to identify transgender people and other gender minorities through population-based surveys.

Why is the gender identity measure comprised of two questions?

The two-step question protocol for gender identity data collection involves first querying the respondent’s current gender identity, followed by a second question that asks the respondent to state their sex assigned a birth. Research has shown that together, these two variables work well in identifying transgender and other gender minority respondents. The two items are cross-tabulated to identify those who currently identify with their assigned sex (non-transgender) and those who do not currently identify with their assigned sex at birth (transgender and other gender minorities).

How was the sexual orientation question developed?

The Williams Institute at UCLA recommended the question regarding sexual orientation after a five-year study of sexual orientation measures. The question has been thoroughly tested and is currently in use in the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), and other state-level surveys. In keeping with approaches employed by NHIS and CHIS, respondents are provided a space to self-identify if the available answer options do not suit them.

How will UC Davis use responses?

Data collected on gender identity and sexual orientation will provide UC Davis with meaningful population data necessary for targeting resources and other student support services (e.g., scholarships and themed housing). These data will also enable campuses to develop curricular and co-curricular offerings that reflect students’ diverse perspectives, and that promote a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students.

As a recipient of federal Title IV financial aid funds, UC Davis is required to gather and report demographic data for undergraduate and graduate students, including gender data. For federal reporting purposes (i.e., IPEDS), it is recommended that Trans Female/Trans Woman be reported as Women, and Trans Male/Trans Man be reported as men. In addition, genderqueer and gender non-conforming individuals should be reported as their sex assigned at birth.

Data collected should be included on the student record, unless the student opts for “only aggregate” reporting. If a student opts for exclusion from their personal record, these data should be maintained in aggregate form at the campus and student classification levels.

Students will be provided with an avenue to update or change their gender identity or sexual orientation data through online campus student portals or an alternate method determined by the campus.

What is the definition of the terms used in the data collection questions?

  • Bisexual – A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or toward people regardless of their gender.
  • Gay – A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender.
  • Gender – A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity.
  • Gender Expression – How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress, mannerisms, and/or behaviors that society characterizes as “masculine” or “feminine.”
  • Gender Non-Conforming – People who do not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society.
  • Gender Queer – A person’s whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant social norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them
  • Heterosexual/Straight – A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of a gender other than their own.
  • Lesbian – A woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender.
  • Transgender – Used most often as an umbrella term; some commonly held definitions: 1) someone whose gender identity or expression does not fit within dominant group social constructs of assigned sex and gender; 2) a gender outside of the man/woman binary; 3) having no gender or multiple genders.
  • Trans Man/Trans Male – A female-to-male (FTM) transgender person who was assigned female at birth, but whose gender identity is that of a man.
  • Trans Woman/Trans Female – A male-to-female (MTF) transgender person who was assigned male at birth, but whose gender identity is that of a woman.

For additional terms, visit the UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Center website.