About the concept of genders 2.0

I’m restarting this in a new topic as the old one got hijacked and is way off point.
I’ll try to make myself more clear in saying what this topic is about.

The current situation:

We have a field for artists called “gender” and it is to be used to represent the gender identity of the artist (see guidelines). There are the options “male”, “female” and “other”. “Other” is meant to be used for persons (or sometimes characters) who don’t identify as male or female, not for entities where the concept of genders make no sense (groups, companies, …).
The following is not part of the guidelines, but I think it’s common sense that the following are the evidences you use to fill out the gender field ranked by priority:

  1. a statement by the artist (e.g. “I identify as …”) or a profile where they filled out a gender field
  2. the pronoun the artist prefers
  3. wikipedia, wikidata and other sites that mention a gender
  4. the appearance and name of the artist.

Obviously, when filling this out for any random artist you are not going to assume that the artist doesn’t identify as male or female so you won’t actively search for a statement about their gender unless something hints to them not identifying as male or female.
If you fill out the gender field only based on a name nobody will attack you if it is not correct.

My critique about the current situation:

  1. I don’t think it is fair to have specific options for two genders and group all others together in one group. -> I’d like there to be more options.
  2. I specifically have a problem with the word “other”. It is not very nice, especially if a generally accepted umbrella term for genders that are currently filed as “other” exists (non-binary or genderqueer). In some cases “other” is not just an unfriendly term, but simply incorrect. Some people identify as “none” or “both” for example.
  3. Since some people don’t identify with just one gender there should be the option to choose more than one option.

My specific suggestion:

Since it makes no sense to discuss the actual list of genders yet I'm hiding this part of my proposal

Genders I’d suggest for now are the following. I found example artists for all of these in our DB - see my collection.

  • female
  • male
  • non-applicable - for artist that are not persons or characters so the concept of genders can not apply.
  • none - for people who don’t believe in the concept of genders or refuse it so the concept of genders does not apply.
  • non binary (not further defined) - all persons currently labeled as “other” would go here until they are moved to a more specific gender
  • non binary - this would be the super-category for all the genders below
    • genderqueer - this would be related to non binary as “similar concept to”.
  • agender
  • genderfluid
  • third gender
  • gender nonconforming
  • androgyne
  • transgender - with the two sub-entities below
    • transfeminine
    • transmasculine

IMO the trans* genders should not be used for trans people who identify as male or female (as probably most do), but only for those who are cited to identify as trans.

What would that mean for most artists on MB?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing would change.
Most artists currently filed as male or female will probably remain so. It will only be changed if it’s wrong, but that won’t be because of my suggested changes.

The only artists that are affected are the ones currently marked as “other” (the label would be changed to “non-binary” for example) and more specifically for those who publicly stated that they identify with a certain gender (they will be set to exactly that or those).

What this topic is NOT about:

  • If you want to challenge the status quo in a different way (e.g. you think there should be a field for biological sex besides the field for gender identity) please do so in a different topic.
  • This topic is not about whether e.g. a search for female artists should result in a list of artists who “were born with a female biological sex”, who “have a female voice” or “appear female”. Nothing will change in that regard resulting from this discussion.
  • It’s also not about whether you understand the difference between two specific genders. Inform yourself or ignore it. You don’t have to use any of the new gender options that may be introduced resulting from this discussion. I’m sure there is other data on MB you don’t use because you don’t understand it.

So please stay on topic, but feel free to challenge my suggestions in a constructive way.


A post was merged into an existing topic: About the concept of genders (hijacked and off topic)

Ultimately, this is an area where MusicBrainz doesn’t need to nail down definitions too much. This stuff needs to be based on published references, so what would matter in practice is: does the artist use “third gender” to describe themselves. If so, it’s useful to have it as an option, if not it’s inappropriate to use it. It’s not like we define male and female ourselves. Links to wikidata provide documentation without us needing to worry about it.

I don’t think it’s important to debate the specific list right now either - we didn’t have a finalized list of instruments before implementing the instrument tree. That’s something that will be added to and tweaked over time. The system, not the entities within that system, is more important right now. Insofar as that goes, I disagree that Paula’s proposed list is too detailed, although I’d quibble with a couple of the entries.

In general, this is a very good proposal. Making genders into full MBID entities gives us a lot of flexibility to do them right, and you’ve covered pretty much all the angles in your description.

One part I’m not sure about is the gender-gender relationships. I see the benefit of having the “non-binary” gender act as a category for the other ones, but I’m not sure any other “has part” relationship is appropriate. The “similar concept to” AR is pretty vague, and I’m not entirely sure what benefit it is to musicbrainz.


Great proposal! Perhaps rather than trying to nail down a list of options (or even in addition to), there should be a free response similar to the “credited as” field. If I were entering myself as an artist, I might choose “male” and “transgender”, then enter “trans man” as a more specific description of transgender.

IMO the trans* genders should not be used for trans people who identify as male or female (as probably most do), but only for those who are cited to identify as trans.

Regarding this part, I’m not sure. I agree that trans people should generally be entered as male or female, if that’s how they see themselves. But as a trans person, I would also love to be able to quickly retrieve a list of trans artists, so (as in the example I gave above) both “male/female” and trans should be selected, unless someone specifically objects to being identified as trans.


That’s understandable, but cis/trans status is not the same type of thing as male/female/nonbinary. Trying to include it here opens up potential problems and abuse patterns.

Paula linked her collections above, and it looks like she has one for this: https://musicbrainz.org/collection/3645916f-34d2-4a73-bb4a-7d10a3e63566. I think that’s probably an appropriate place to track this. I’m wary of adding it to musicbrainz officially, and especially so in any proposal that doesn’t include cis alongside trans.


So you would have a few pre-defined genders and then a free text field that just overrides how these genders are written on your editor profile or on an artist’s page?
That’s an interesting idea.
That way, if we see a lot of people set to a certain gender are “credited as” a more specific term for that we can create a new entity for that and split the original gender entity.
One disadvantage I see is: Entities can be translated into different languages, free text fields can’t.
So e.g. if I found a Russian artist on Wikidata who identifies as let’s say “gender neutral” I would have to find out what that is called in Russian and then add that into the free text field (probably selecting “agender” first - if that is an option).

About the option to have a quick list of all trans people: I’d like that too, but genderally (lol, Freudian typo) I agree with @arturus that being trans shouldn’t be part of anybody’s gender identity unless they explicitly say it is.
I have one idea though: If you edit someone’s gender there could be a checkbox saying “is openly transgender” (with a short explanation when to use this instead of a trans identity). If it is checked the person does not show as transgender on their profile, but can be found searching for trans people.
This probably complicates things a bit too much though.

1 Like

As it is currently, MusicBrainz and it’s users (aware or unaware) use the male/female/other indicators only as some basic indication, where if you would try to analyze it, male/female is of course some unspecified mix between biological/cultural/personal identification.
You can take it as such, and understand and accept that it is not some scientific statement, nor any sort of value judgement.
(which is what I am guessing luckily most people will do)

If an artist doesn’t want to have either of these two labels put on them, it’s only fair and reasonable that MusicBrainz has the option to accommodate for that.
And in that case I would think that it is the prerogative of the artist, and nobody else, what description or labels are used in MusicBrainz’ database.

As soon as MusicBrainz is installing predefined gender categories, it is suddenly presenting itself as some authority on gender.
I am not saying that some people involved here are not well versed in the matter and have very sensible opinions and good insights on the matter. Surely I have learned a thing or two from participating in these threads.

But I have very serious doubts if MusicBrainz should assume to be some authority on genders, that predefines, steers towards or limits any sort of further-refined gender type.


You don’t have to be an expert on gender to be able to interpret an artist’s statement that reads “I identify as agender” to mean that this artist identifies as agender and therefore use the predefined label “agender”.
This is all that is going to happen.

No it’s just presenting itself as inclusive.


I think I found a good analogy: MusicBrainz handles gender identity like artist names.
Meaning if someone says “I identify as …, please call me …” then that is what we do.
We don’t change anyone’s artist name based on anything else than what the artist wishes and the same is true for gender identity.

John Oliver puts it into slightly different words:

David Evans woke up one day and said: “Everyone call me ‘The Edge’.”
And we all went: “Fine ‘The Edge’, are we talking the noun or the verb?”



Its a bit different

  1. We don’t scrub off the old name, we dont say we must never call them by that name, their other names remain and are listed as an aliases https://musicbrainz.org/artist/a94e530f-4e9f-40e6-b44b-ebec06f7900e/aliases

  2. Its just a name, so of course anyone can have any name they like. But ‘gender identify’ should be a properly defined list, otherwise anything could be added and then it becomes meaningless.

1 Like

Since the community manager has decided that it is off topic to discuss the list that has been proposed

I would suggest we removed the proposed list from the proposal

While I disagree that “other” is incorrect when an artist’s identity could be described as “none” or “both” (both are a term /other/ than male/female), I do take the point that it could be seen as pejorative.
I have no problem with renaming it to “non-binary” (or genderqueer, although that might be interpreted as pejorative too). And if an agender identity is not generally considered to be included in non-binary/genderqueer, I have no problem with that being added as a fourth option either.

Anything beyond that seems to be out of scope for MB; more detailed info would then typically be found in other resources, like Wikipedia.

I suppose one issue might be tracking changes to the value (e.g. for trans people). I suppose for that it makes the most sense to create a new artist entity; if we separate performance names, we should probably also separate, say, a trans man’s previous female identity from their new male/… one. That might then require a new AR, e.g. has new/old identity" (possibly specifically including extra language, so that it does not get used only for a name change); “performs as” would not be appropriate.


I’m ok with just a minimal variant, but - as proposed in STYLE-1012 - this should at least mean split “other” into “non-binary/genderqueer”* and “not applicable” and give the option to select more than one value.

*I prefer “non-binary/genderqueer” over just one of the two terms as “non-binary” is more self-explanatory, but “genderqueer” is more inclusive.

This was already discussed in the previous topic too and I don’t think it’s helpful to repeat it here. My proposal - allowing more than 3 options - does not touch the issue you describe, so it’s probably best discussed separately. Just FYI: trans people don’t usually transition from one gender identity to another, so for the vast majority there is no change in the value.


Okay, new year new try.

Does anybody still have objections to Style ticket 1013: Split gender option “other” into “not applicable” and “non-binary/genderqueer”?

Would it be possible to hear from a developer whether this would be hard to implement and/or whether it would take a long time?

Let’s discuss further improvements to how we classify gender later, but please let’s go forward with this basic step.

PS: This currently would affect 369 people that would be labeled as “non-binary/genderqueer” instead of “other”, 262 “other”-type artist entities that would be changed to “not applicable” and 64 characters as well as 31 artist entities without a type that would have to be looked through manually.


This is going to be a difficult one to police. It will need to be carefully watched for abusive edits. And how will it get checked? Enough arguments appear when a name is got wrong or someone doesn’t want a date of birth published. So there should be a clear way for an artist to put in a proper appeal for corrections of the data.

With the choices I don’t think it is right to put “non-binary” and “genderqueer” into the same box. I have an asexual non-binary friend who is not happy to be labelled as queer. They’d probably pick “not applicable” for themselves. But the trouble then occurs when someone else is updating their data and would change the option to “female” as that is what the person coming to a gig sees on the stage.

The problem with a database is it wants to put people into boxes. And this is an exact area where the “traditional” boxes don’t work. (And no, I don’t know an answer - I just know that “labels” are a big part of the problem. Databases don’t see people, they see data)

Also what happens when someone changes gender during their career? That is going to lead to a need of a totally new type of data field. Some people will want to keep those identities distinct from each other, whereas other will want to have a each stage of the career linked. (I’m thinking about Prince and his various changes of personality \ name \ brand)

Is this the kind of minefield MB wants to be involved in? Good luck to the decision makers on that one!

1 Like

I don’t see how changing the name from “other” to “non-binary-genderqueer” opens the door for abusive edits.

I agree, but renaming the existing box to something sensible is a first step. I’d guess your friend is less happy to be called “other” - but I don’t want to assume.

That would be wrong, because “not applicable” is for non-human entities where the concept of gender doesn’t apply - like “Various Artists”.

I don’t know why this question keeps coming up here. My suggestions don’t affect this issue that we already have whatsoever.

MB has genders for a long time.


Same as last year, I still believe that the proposed change will create more issues than it solves.

1 Like

This is all that would happen:

How would that cause any issues?

1 Like

Have we considered removing the gender item altogether? What will we lose as a music database, since we are only concerned with people’s work and interest in music? Their personal particulars are there only for us to identify each artist, and I think the name and main area of activity are enough to distinguish artist A from artist B.


Aside from raising issue with the wording, I haven’t seen anyone raise any issues that aren’t already present. Just to be clear:

Currently: human artists who cannot be categorized as Male or Female go into Other, along with non-human entities for whom the gender field does not apply.

Proposal: we create two separate other categories, one for human artists, and one for non-human artists. Since there are two popularly used umbrella terms in English, “genderqueer” and “non-binary”, the proposal is to use both, as “non-binary/genderqueer”.

selecting “non-binary” instead of either “male” or “female” would be exactly the same as selecting “other” instead of “male” or “female” is today, except it carries the additional information that this is a human. That people might try to (incorrectly) change it to one of the binary genders is already an issue today. That a person’s gender might change over the course of someone’s career is already an issue today, and also not limited to non-binary people, who are the only people affected by this proposal.

For myself: I’d support “non-binary” over “non-binary/genderqueer” for simplicity, but I’m not particularly opposed to the latter either.