About the concept of genders


I prefer women voices and way to sing, for instance.
For me then, it is important to know for singers.


Agreed, and I also don’t think it is even a valid point of discussion for this thread.

At first I did believe that the OP did have some objective to see if ‘male’ and ‘female’ could be disposed of from MusicBrainz completely.
But after me specifically voicing that suspicion, the OP quickly corrected me and said that that was not the case or the intention.
It has been made clear that the purpose of this thread is to discuss possible extentions or improvements on how MusicBrainz currently handles gender.
It’s not about limiting something.

Discussing the possible removal of an existing feature of MusicBrainz would probably need a new topic.


@dashv you raise some interesting questions.

In addition to what others already said: Because it’s information. MB stores lots of information about artists. Not all of it is directly related to music (siblings, partners, …).

Demographics I guess.


Nobody, but there is some guesswork involved for much info on MB. E.g. if I listen to an album of an artist and it sounds like instrumental hip hop to me so I tag the artist “instrumental hip hop” but maybe the artists considers themself an electronic artist.

I think it’s alright to add such data as long as the intention is good, the possibility exists to label anybody with the correct gender and the choice of the gender is not just guesswork without any basis (at least based on the name).
In a perfect world nobody would have a gender assigned to them until they are old enough to know which one is the correct one for them and kids would be raised without stereotypes, but that’s not the world we live in.

This is a really good point. Many people today live in an environment where they don’t have to fear for their lives when they come out as non-binary, but this was not always the case. Non-binary genders are not a new phenomenon, it’s just more heard of and accepted nowadays. So we can assume that many deceased people were non-binary, but never came out.

An idea to address your last two question and based on @Llama_lover’s idea: There could be a checkbox when you edit an artists gender to determine whether it’s just guesswork or based on a quote of the artist. This would probably be left unchecked for most artists that are male or female in the database (because in today’s world you usually don’t “come out” as male or female), but it shouldn’t be a requirement for some and not for other genders.

Like I mentioned above Wikidata does mention genders. But that’s the only example I know too.


I was waiting on your response before replying, I valued your reply, it helps. I purposefully left my intentions “debatable” in order to get a broader defined response. I prefer to have the data, for all the reasons mentioned, but sometimes it feels like we are adding “race”, like placing humans in categories. I like music, I do not think in terms of male or female when listening to music, “its just music”.

Maybe I am just having personal ethical questions around the amount of research I have been doing on a few artist to fix misinformation. I have largely stopped work until I can settle these feelings. Maybe this discussion poked a raw nerve.


To quote the OP of this thread: “in the vast majority an educated guess with the options male and female will be correct.”
This is my belief too.

For deceased artists for which this might not be completely correct, I am sure any editor with more knowledge and information about the deceased artist will be very welcome to make changes and add additional information.


Whatever you decide, please don’t forget that MB is not a purely English website. It is currently also accessible in Dutch, French, and German. If you change the gender options it should remain accessible in other languages.


How does one even begin to explain 32 gender pronouns (which isn’t even a complete list) to a foreigner, or translate into sanskrit, na’vi, esperanto, and yupik.

:lion: :lion: :lion:
:tiger: :tiger: :tiger:
:bear: :bear: :bear:
oh my


Non-binary genders all have international names. At least I have never heard of anyone translate “transgender” or “genderfluid” into other languages. It could be a different story with non-latin scripts though. :confused:

Preferred pronouns don’t need to be translated. Other languages have other pronouns and you can choose your preferred pronouns for every language that is relevant to you.

E.g. in German we don’t have an equivalent to the singular “they”. So when we talk about someone whose preferred pronoun we don’t know we just say the name instead.


Indeed - this is why I’m opposed to having it as a free text field. It prevents proper i18n.

And clearly, no matter how many options you list, someone’s going to get offended because whatever term they prefer isn’t available; and who needs that drama?

I’d rather see the gender field removed then - it doesn’t add a huge amount of musically relevant information (although it can be interesting to find out, say, how many female bass singers there are), and if necessary can be extracted from linked wikidata by a userscript.


Nor does wife and children.
And we certainly don’t need to know that Meg Ryan was involved with: Russell Crowe (2010) and John Mellencamp (2010 – 2014) , and married to Dennis Quaid (1991-02-14 – 2001-07-16)
But we add them.


So it would not be o.k. for MusicBrainz to store a simple basic concept of gender (which many will agree does have some musical relevance in some cases), but for other websites it is o.k.?

This thread is starting to become a bit like Groundhog Day.
Hopefully we can expect some concrete and useful proposals for extending the current implementation that can be agreed on.

That would probably serve the good and sensible intentions of starting this topic well.


I don’t see the problem with languages. Sure there are different traditional gender identities in different cultures, but why would we want to translate them?

Name Culture English Translation
Burrneshat Albania sworn virgin
Hijra South Asia ?
Fa’afafine Samoa ?
Māhū Kanaka Maoli & Maohi in the middle
Two-spirit Indigenous American -
fakaleiti Tonga ladylike

Some countries/languages/cultures have their own terms that approximately equate to e.g. transgender or intersex, but very often these terms have a special meaning to the culture and should probably be used internationally to describe individuals who identify as such.


Okay. I came up with something.

Paula’s Plan for genders on MB

Step 1 (quick intermediary fix - I guess)

  • we create a new gender option called “not applicable” for non-person artist entries (e.g. Various Artists).
  • we rename “other” to “non-binary/genderqueer”
  • when selecting the option above you get a hint to add a more specific gender identity into the annotation field
  • in the annotation field you write e.g.: “gender identity: genderfluid” (standardized with the “gender identity:” in the front so we can later search for all artists where this is used and change it).

We don’t currently translate annotations so I think as an intermediary solution it will be acceptable to leave the gender there untranslated too.

Step 2 (quick and easy improvements)

  • we optionally improve the system with adjustments that are easily implemented.

Step 3 (solution that will take time and programming - I guess)

When editing the gender of an artist you get a checkbox and a drop-down menu with a text field.
The checkbox only appears if the artist is linked to a Wikidata item and it says “check Wikidata”. If you select it the server will automatically check the gender field of the linked Wikidata item.
In the dropdown menu you’ll find all previously entered genders (sorted by frequency - so male, female and not applicable will come first). You can use the text field to search the dropdown menu for a gender that was already used or you can enter a Wikidata link to a gender identity to create a new one. Only Wikidata items that are somehow related to the gender identity Wikidata item should be allowed (ideally).

So basically gender would be a URL relationship so you could go to the page of a gender and have all artists that use this relationship listed there. E.g.: agender (Q505371) is the gender for: Angel Haze, Elliot Yokum, …
If you switch to a different language on MB the name of the gender should change to the name of that language’s Wikipedia article or the language label set in WD if available.


That looks good.
Another task at hand will probably be to write up a guide and some explanation on what ‘gender’ is intended to mean and comprise in relation to the MusicBrainz universum.
It would probably help to avoid some possible confusion, and help editors who have not given the whole concept that much thought yet.
Reading the wikipedia article on it (over 13.000 words I believe) is probably a bit much to ask of editors, and it also addresses many facets that are not very relevant to the ‘simplified’ purpose that MusicBrainz has for it.

Some comprehensive guide on it would probably have helped me a bit too before joining this discussion :wink:


A couple notes:

  1. My understanding is that we did not have a “Not applicable” option because in that case the solution was to not fill out the gender field. It’s currently not possible to add a gender if the artist type is set to “Group” or group subtypes, because it’s not applicable for any artist of with those types.

It’s always applicable for artists with type Person or Character, unless we’re making a case that e.g. agender or neutrois is not a gender, but I think that’s a minority opinion. Artist with type Other is a mixed bag. I looked through Other artists here: https://musicbrainz.org/search?query=type%3AOther&type=artist&limit=25&method=advanced&page=1

The majority of these artists do not have a gender set. Of those that do, most appear to be artists that could better be a different type. There’s a lot of artists that should be Character, and a lot that appear to be solo projects and should either be person (if it’s more of a performance name) or group (if it’s a one person band). Some discussion of that here: No distinction between person and solo (side) project?

So I’m not convinced of the need for “not applicable”. I think more likely we could move to removing gender from “Other” artists along side groups, unless someone can figure out an example of an artist that’s legitimately type Other and has a gender.

  1. Some data for labeling: There’s an annual survey of mostly terminology for “people who are not fully described by the gender binary”. (In past years it was explicitly “nonbinary” but they’re trying to avoid bias). At any rate, in the most recent run, 60% of respondents chose “nonbinary”, 30% chose “genderqueer”, and 32% chose neither in response to the question “Which of the following best describe(s) in English how you think of yourself?”. This was multiple select, so percentages do not sum to 100. Data from http://gendercensus.com/post/175116062675/gender-census-2018-the-identity-question

So “non-binary/genderqueer” will cover about 68% of the intended population, which is less than ideal. “Other” will cover everyone, although can be problematic in other ways depending on how it’s presented. Something to keep in mind.

  1. If we’re revamping gender, it doesn’t make sense to keep it “select one”. 22% of respondents in that survey chose either “Man” or “Woman” and at least one other term (that wasn’t cis or binary). We need the ability to select more than one of “male” “female” “other” as these are not exclusive sets.

  2. It doesn’t looks like we’re going that way but I’d really caution against any attempt to encode a sex/gender distinction. This is meaningful for some people but not for others, and trying to formalize e.g. Man vs Male and Woman vs Female is a bad road for musicbrainz to go down. Any standard we develop should not distinguish between these as there is no consistent usage or agreed upon distinction.

Towards that end, I think that making gender multiple select from (male, female, other) solves problems with our current system more than anything else. This does require a schema change, but not nearly as much programming as the Wikidata integration being proposed, and is something that could be looked at sooner rather than later.


I’ll be quick with my answer because I’m just about to leave for vacation.

Search for gender=other -> [no artist], [language instruction], …

I actually would prefer if we make it clear in the guidelines that “non applicable” is not to be used for people who are agender or gender non-conforming. Non applic able should only be for when it’s not possible (because it’s not a person), not for when it’s willfully not applied by the person.

I’m fine with that too. I just suggested the not-applicable option because it was pointed out that renaming “other” to something more respectful would leave cases where the new term wouldn’t fit (Language instruction is not non-binary :wink:).

With that question I’m surprised the number is even that high. Sure it’s not what best describes all people who are not male or female, but it’s an accepted umbrella term.

That’s why I’m suggesting to have the option to define the gender further (first in the annotation field, later by Wikidata links).

I fully agree and I forgot to point that out in my proposal.


I think it is useful, because empty data just means the data is not set, but it does not strictly imply that a gender is not applicable. We might just miss the information and the editor did not find sources for the gender. So a “not applicable” option is useful to specify that the concept of gender does not apply to a specific artist entry.

It is the same logic why we e.g. set “[no label]” for self-released releases.


Just wanted to note that at least those two examples are also “Type: Other”, so there’s already some semantics in place to help people not consider them by “human standards”. (I’m not against a “N/A” gender option though, as per @outsidecontext’s reasoning.)


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Using offensive slurs is not an acceptable way to enter into this conversation. Trans and non-binary people are not asking for your permission to be who they are, and you’ve shown incredible disrespect for many members of the MusicBrainz community, including people in this very thread.