“Gender tests” are fake science

Some people ask me about online “gender tests.” I think gender tests are pseudoscience. They look like science but are not. I worry these tests might hurt some people who take them. They might make a bad choice in life because of the results. I think these tests are very bad for young people and for people without much school.

Why gender tests are bad

1. You do not learn anything new from gender tests

  • Some people take the tests for fun or as a joke. That is great!
  • If you are taking one because you are questioning your gender and want answers, you need to be careful. You already know that you might want to make changes. It is better to talk in person with people who can help. Online tests seem like easy answers, but there are no easy answers.

2. You can often get the score you want

  • You can often tell which answers are “masculine” or “feminine.” Your score may also change based on when or how you take the test.

3. You might make big choices based on your score

  • A quick test with a score is less work than thinking hard about how you feel. Some people use the score as “proof” they should do something. Big choices should not be based on an online test. Do not use a number or category from your test score to make a big life choice.
  • Some people do not like to make big choices. They want to be told what to do. That way if things go wrong, they can blame something.

4. Gender tests look like science, but they are not

  • I am happy people study sex and gender. I would be happy if a test could tell if you should make a gender change. No test can do that yet.
  • We do not know why some people are transgender or gender diverse yet.
  • That means the tests are not based on proven things.

5. Gender tests will give the wrong result to some people

  • Even good tests are not always right. Think of a test for cancer. Most of the time, the test is right, but sometimes it is wrong. There are two ways it can be wrong:
    • It says you have cancer when you do not have it (a false positive)
    • It says you do not have cancer, but you do (a false negative)
  • If enough people take a test, even a good one, some will get put in the wrong group.
  • Some people make a gender change, but later they wish they had not done it. This happens when you do not think hard enough about why you want to make a gender change. People who like gender tests may not want to think hard.

6. Some people use gender test scores like game scores

  • Some people think their score means they are “more transgender” than someone with a lower score.
  • Many people want to know where they stand among other people:
    • Grades in school
    • Standardized tests (SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, GMAT, etc.)
    • IQ tests
    • Mensa
    • “Rate your mate” quizzes
    • Beauty pageant scores
    • Sports rankings
  • Gender tests seem real to some who think that “numbers don’t lie.” But gender identity can not be reduced to a number or score.

7. Gender tests say there are simple “types” for things that are not simple

  • People do not fit into simple types. That is what is great about people!
  • Many of the ways we divide people into types are too simple.
  • For instance, dividing people as only “gay” or “straight” gets rid of a lot of big differences. The same is true with dividing people as only “male” or “female.” Sexuality and gender are a spectrum, not a binary of two things.
  • Think of a rainbow. Imagine saying there are only two colors: warm and cool. That would get rid of a lot of colors!

Background

When I was in grade school, there was a “gender test” we used to tell if someone was a boy or girl by how they looked at their fingernails: if you look at your nails with fingers bent and palm facing you, you were a boy, and if you looked at them with fingers straight and the back of your hand facing you, you were a girl.

This kind of belief is called a stereotype. A stereotype is an idea or image of a group of people or things that is too simple. Some people might not match their stereotype. Some adults think we can split people in types based on stereotypes.

A note on horoscopes

Horoscopes are another way to classify people that is fake science. It takes something scientific (looking at the stars and when you were born) and says that you are a type based on that stuff. People who believe in it say everyone falls into one of twelve types. Each type acts in different ways. Capricorns act this way, and Cancers act that way.

Horoscopes are a lot like gender tests. People hear what they want in the results. In science, this is called confirmation bias. There are even people who plan their day based on a horoscope. That is about as smart as planning your life based on a gender test.

Things like “gender tests” and horoscopes should only be done for fun.

Here are some of the “gender tests” you might hear people talk about:

This page uses easy words. This helps young people read it. This also helps people who don’t know many English words. The words in bold are hard. You need to know what they mean, or this will be hard to read. You can use these links to looks up words you don’t know:
Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary
Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary