After receiving a number of complaints regarding gender options for an annual Valentine’s Day matchmaking survey put out by a student organization at Harvard University, the event organizers have agreed to allow students to select a third nonbinary gender option for their dating profile.
Datamatch is an annual matchmaking survey conducted by the Harvard Computer Society each year around Valentine's Day. According to the Crimson, Datamatch is a fun opportunity that “matches” students for potential dates and several local off-campus eateries have joined in on the fun by covering the cost of meals for students who match. Students have described Datamatch as a “quintessential” part of Harvard campus culture.
Last year’s Datamatch became embroiled in controversy, however, when a small number of students complained that Datamatch only featured two gender options: “male” and “female.” Students who didn’t feel comfortable selecting one of the two options had to write in a box labeled “extra” at the end of the survey. According to one student, the lack of options made the survey discouraging, to say the least.
“I saw that the options were male, female, and then you had to put any other gender identity markers into this ‘extra’ section that was at the end of it,” student Darius A. Johnson told the Crimson last year. “That wording—or that separation—was super disconcerting to me, of the two binary options being the ‘normal’ options, and anything else being the extra. I thought that was a huge oversight on their part.”
In response to the student outcry, 26 members of the Harvard Undergraduate Council signed an open letter to the Harvard Computer Society admonishing them for a lack of gender options. After publication of the letter, the president of the Harvard Computer Society publicly apologized at the following Undergraduate Council meeting.
“I, on behalf of the Harvard Computer Society and on Datamatch, take full responsibility for the exclusion that we have created on campus,” said Javier Cuan-Martinez ’18, then-president of Harvard Computer Society, at the UC meeting last year.
According to the Crimson, Datamatch 2018 will allow students who participate the opportunity to utilize 100 characters for information about their gender identity. Additionally, students will also have the option of deciding whether or not to reveal their gender at all.
According to the Harvard Computer Society member Russell F. Pekala '19, the organization made the decision to proceed with the gender changes after trying to find “consensus” with the Harvard students who felt “personally affected by last year’s mistakes.”
“We hope that will give people a lot of flexibility in how they are presenting themselves,” said Pekala.
John Patrick (@john_pat_rick) is a graduate of Canisius College and Georgia Southern University. He interned for Red Alert Politics during the summer of 2012 and has continued to contribute regularly.