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Relying on an ‘Other’ category leads to misclassification of sexual minorities

With the push to avoid only providing binaries as choices for people (for example, in documents), including an “Other” category is not necessarily helpful either.

Photo by Delia Giandeini from Unsplash.com

With the push to avoid only providing binaries as choices for people (for example, in documents), including an “Other” category is not necessarily helpful either. This is according to a study – “Relying on an ‘Other’ Category Leads to Significant Misclassification of Sexual Minority Participants” by Tierney K. Lorenz – that was published in LGBT Health.

For this study, the researcher surveyed 905 participants on their responses when given a limited set of sexual orientation options (bisexual, gay/lesbian, heterosexual, other).

The researcher found that 21% of the participants chose different orientation labels across questions. For instance, when not presented with a “mostly heterosexual” option, 78% of mostly heterosexual participants chose “heterosexual”; 3% chose “other.”

However, when not presented with an “asexual” label, 100% of asexual participants chose “other.”

The findings “suggest that ‘other’ categories could misclassify a substantial proportion of sexual minority participants,” the researcher said. As such, becoming more specific when asking about sexual orientation may be more beneficial, particularly if the responses affect delivery of services.

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