Fighting for legal and social recognition outside the societal gender system
I recently received a rather curious circulated mailing that had been around the block but initiated from an employment agency contracted to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS, you may recall, are the government agency responsible for the national census.
Going back through my earlier journal entries, you can read how I approached ONS during the consultation period for Census 2011 with regard to the sex/gender question where provision is not made for anything other than a gendered response. I suggested a third non gender-specific option (X) should appear on the questionnaire alongside the gendered options of male (M) and female (F).
I explained to ONS in great detail the necessity for provision for human existence outside the gendered societal structure and I believe that at least some personnel at ONS understood the reasoning behind my suggestion: the current situation offering just two gendered options ensures that a socially invisible minority from within the total UK population are not able to have their identities recorded correctly (with continuance of social invisibility and lack of provision by government agencies and consequentially from the private sector).
I explained my concern that human beings of non-gendered identity or of other identities outside the gendered societal structure are being effectively forced to deny a core identity for fear of prosecution as completed census return is a legal duty with penalties incurred for non-compliance. I stated that I objected to this question in the present format and that I had indeed crossed through both boxes (M) and (F), underlined by a statement that I am non-gendered, as my response to this inappropriate and offensive question when completing my most recent census return and that I would continue to take this course of action every ten years until ONS made adequate provision on the census questionnaire to enable me to answer the question accurately and honestly.
In short, I did not manage to achieve my goal this time around. The initial ONS policy team response was quite positive and I was cautiously optimistic but not surprised when the final decision went against me. I tried to set a meeting with the ONS Board Director tasked with overall responsibility for Census 2011 and my request was declined although the same Director did agree to meet Simon Hughes MP (acting on my behalf) to discuss this issue along with a number of other human rights issues concerning Census 2011. The outcome was not at all satisfactory although an undertaking was apparently given that any respondent who did not regard the gendered roles M/F as appropriate or an accurate representation of their identity could cross out M/F and write a statement under the field (as I had done previously). I protested that it would then be completely straightforward for someone at ONS to ‘assign’ a gendered role to the respondent when inputting the data to the central system as there would not be provision on the database to record a written statement and the system would be set up to require a single entry from M/F boxes. The non-gendered respondent would then be categorised into the gendered structure without their knowledge or permission. I did not believe this so-called olive branch from ONS was a genuine undertaking, and furthermore it is not exactly beneficial or parity of treatment when a section of the population is required to cross out all the provided options.
All my protestation at the time was to no avail and, to add further insult to injury, the most ridiculous excuses were offered as reasoning in favour of maintaining the status quo, even citing the fact that some gendered respondents would be unable to resist a juvenile temptation to tick the non gender-specific box rather than M/F and thus distorting the quality of collected data. Well, when it comes to taking the piss, ONS have certainly done that and it is the non-gendered who are being pissed on – again!
Anyway, back to the communication I received this week. The employment agency are “seriously” seeking trans people to work in various census collection roles that range from middle management to door knocking. All the jobs are temporary by nature.
The percentage of trans people of working age but without access to paid work is certainly much higher than the national average, and that is true of any marginalized group who suffer from extreme discrimination within the selection process. Undoubtedly there are a large number of trans people who are actively looking for work. Maybe ONS realised this would be prime hunting ground for recruitment as there would be no shortage of erstwhile and worthy jobseekers who are just too prepared to trudge the streets on their behalf for a few weeks in return for an hourly wage.
And yet ONS have refused to make provision for those of us whose core identities place us outside the gendered societal structure or permit us the ‘right’ to be able to record our existence – and thus we remain non-persons insofar as service providers that use census data information for allocation of resources are concerned – at least for another ten years. Am I the only one who believes ONS are being not just cynical but highly hypocritical?
The denial of existence is the worst act of discrimination by the gendered majority against the non-gendered.