Abstract: Measuring Gender Expression in Gender Diverse Inclusive Ways: Evidence from LGBTQ+ University Students in Canada (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

341P Measuring Gender Expression in Gender Diverse Inclusive Ways: Evidence from LGBTQ+ University Students in Canada

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Michael Woodford, PhD, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Kitchener, ON, Canada
Simon Coulombe, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Nicholas Schwabe, MSW, Research Associate, Wilfrid Laurier University
The need for robust and inclusive sexuality and gender identity survey questions is well documented. Accordingly, there has been an emergence of guidelines and tested measures for these constructs, but gender expression (GE) is rarely considered. Though GE measures are available, including tested ones, they reflect the gender binary, and thus are not inclusive of non-binary GEs. Exclusionary measures can cause gender-diverse participants to feel invisible, potentially contribute to invalid or missing data, and limit insights about their experiences. To better understand intersections between GE and wellbeing, an inclusive measure is needed, one that addresses contemporary aspects of GE and is understood by and suitable to participants, including cisgender individuals.

We report the results of a mixed-methods study to develop an inclusive measure of self-perceived GE for use with gender-diverse LGBTQ young adults.


We consulted the literature and experts to identify and assess existing measures. We located a three-item measure addressing femininity, masculinity, and androgyny (Dockendorff & Geist, 2018). After consulting Dockendorff, we adapted it by integrating five other GE dimensions common among LGBTQ+ young adults (e.g., agender, femme) and a write-in option. Next, we obtained qualitative feedback from LGBTQ+ university students (4 groups, n=16, 50% trans, 25% people of color) about the measure’s clarity, comprehensiveness, and inclusiveness. Alongside wording changes, we revised the measure to consist of five items: agender, androgynous, feminine, masculine, and a write-in option. Participants indicate their self-perceived GE on each dimension (1=Not at all, 7=Very).

The proposed measure was piloted with an online sample of Canadian LGBTQ+ university students (n=332; 40% trans; age M=21yrs; 39% people of color). We included two existing GE measures for comparison purposes; a single-item continuum measure (1=extremely feminine, 5=equally feminine/masculine, 9=extremely masculine); a measure assessing degree of feminine and masculine GE on two different continua (1=Not at all, 7=Very).

The three measures were presented in random order. Participants reviewed each measure and answered questions about each (e.g., ability to understand terms, perceptions of inclusion; 1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree). Next they completed each measure and then rank-ordered them in order of preference. We compare results for trans and LGBQ+ cisgender participants.


Among both groups, the majority of participants preferred our proposed measure (64% trans; 52% cisgender), while support was lowest for the single-item continuum measure (15% trans; 18% cisgender); χ²(2)=.134, p=NS. Though our measure was perceived to be the least understood by both groups in terms of terminology (trans M=4.45, cisgender M=4.24; t(330)=2.418, p=.02), it was considered to be the most inclusive one for trans/transgender (trans M= 4.30, cisgender M=4.07, t(330)=2.087, p=.04), genderqueer/fluid/non-binary (trans M=4.34, cisgender M=4.19, t(330)=1.468, p=NS), and cisgender LGBQ+ (trans M=4.34, cisgender M=4.19; t(300)=-0.224, p=NS) communities. It was also the highest rated in terms of enabling accurate reporting of GE (trans M=4.11, cisgender M=4.10, t(329)=0.170, p=NS).


This study addresses a need for an inclusive GE measure. Our measure received very positive feedback from trans and cisgender LGBTQ+ students. We recommend defining terms to foster participants’ understanding. We offer recommendations for its use and future testing.