OK. It was dumb of me to yelp that out at 60% volume into a silent and almost empty office, but I really was astonished and outraged. I was user-acceptance testing some on-line diversity training software and found the question:
“What is your sexual orientation:
(Note the careful alphabetization of the options to avoid prejudgement and offence. *sigh*)
I don’t know where to start with this, to be honest.
The woman sitting opposite me was startled by my outburst as well she might be. We discussed transsexuality for a while (or I talked about it, while she listened and made the odd comment). She did ask if I was being overly politically correct, but she was shocked by the only discrimination story I told her. Like most people she thinks she can always tell when she sees a transsexual. I said “well, my transdar’s pretty good – and I went to Alton Towers with four transguys, and I would only have known with one of them”.
I wrote a fairly clear explanation of why transsexuality is not a sexual orientation in the feedback form, and pointed out that asexuality is, and suggested that they include it for the sake of inclusiveness. I also gave them the web-page and email address of one of the UK’s most respected legal specialists on gender issues and suggested they contact him to ask what the best way to word a question about transsexuality and transgender would be. I even offered to ask the question informally if they liked.
It remains to be seen what happens next. I am aware that I can get a little shrill on this subject, and it is quite clear that the training providers had no idea what they’d be unleashing on themselves when they asked me to test the software. I want to ring them tomorrow to put my point of view across, but I think it is probably better if I wait and see how they reply.