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The Census Says I Don’t Exist

2011 March 11

Dear darling BadRep readers, I’m not happy.  Let me avail your face of the reason why.

photo of the "what is your sex?" question on the purple-coloured paper census questionnaireIf you live in Britain, you’ll have noticed that you’ve had a census posted to you.  As you should all be aware (but don’t worry if you’re not – I didn’t know about it until this year!) the census takes stock of all the citizens of the British Isles, their means, whats and wherefores, and then the government looks at it and goes, “Hmm! Based on the fact that we have this many of these people, we’ll spend our money this way.”

So it’s actually quite important that the data gathered is accurate.

Imagine my disgust, then, when I turned to page whatever-it-is where it asked me:

What is your sex?
[ ] Male [ ] Female

You read that right.   There’s just the box to state your “sex”, and there’s only two boxes, and there’s no mention whatsoever of gender anywhere.

Now, anyone capable of thought will realise that sex is distinct and non-prescriptive of gender, and gender is not binary. Indeed, neither are binary.  For the census to merely ask the (binary) “sex” of the British people is to erase the identities of the numerous trans* and Intersex Brits.  What the fuck are we meant to put?  Do we tick both?   Do we add another box?   Do we just shun the whole thing altogether?  If there’s a define-own space for religion, why not for gender?

How are we ever meant to glean accurate data on how many trans* and Intersex people we have living here in the British Isles if there’s no room for them on the bloody census?!

Therefore, I have the following favour to ask of you: if you are living in Britain, have access to a telephone and some excess bile going, give the census helpline a call and complain. If no-one speaks up about this, they will never know.  And if we can’t fix 2011’s census, it may well be fixed next time from our shouting this time around.

Edited to add: I’ve been informed that there’s a Facebook event to pass around right here, if you’re Facebookly-inclined, and a friend of mine, who has actually bled some sense from the person they were on the phone to, has reported that they really don’t know how to handle this, and that if you tick both “male” and “female”, you CANNOT be fined for not providing information, although you may get a phone call to check the data and see how it can be incorporated.  Result!  For best results, though, combine both – tick both boxes and call them to vent your spleen.  The T is not silent, people.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Miranda permalink*
    March 11, 2011

    Commenting to add that Shakesville have also posted on this, and their post has similar suggestions and resources: Shakesville: Be a Statistic!

    • March 11, 2011

      That site has a good idea for what binary gendered people can do – tick their box but also add a 3rd one saying Other and leave it blank.

  2. Pet Jeffery permalink
    March 11, 2011

    I wonder whether it will be possible to tick both boxes if you fill it out online.

    • March 12, 2011

      Nope online it’s a either or. No way to tick both.

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