Monday, November 30, 2015

RE: Gender & Census 2016

Dear Wayne Smith, Chief Statistician, Statistics Canada,
Ministers Navdeep Bains, Kristy Duncan

CC: Catherine McKenna, MP Ottawa Centre

As your government resurrects mandatory participation in the long form census, I implore your departments to correct the measure of gender in Canadian census data. Traditional census questions have required participants to identify as male or female with the goal of generating data that is generalizable rather than accurate. The official account of Canada's population precludes the possibility for Canadians of non-binary and indigenous genders to be counted equally among our peers.

While tending to the shortcomings of censuses past, your government has a duty to correct the methods that articulate Canada as a country of only men and women. Male/female gender measurement erases my own non-binary existence from the official report of Canada's population.

To reflect the real diversity of gender in Canada, the census needs to accomplish two tasks: 1) cleaving physical sex designations from social gender identities and 2) implementing methods that allow for the infinite possibility of gender identities.

Sex exists as a spectrum with human bodies of all possibilities located on a continuum between idealized male and female bodies. Intersex bodies are naturally born between these bodily ideals and transsexual bodies autonomously choose to undergo physical transformations to move their bodies along the spectrum of sex. Unlike sex, gender is not a single spectrum from masculine to feminine. Social gender is located on an unlimited set of spectra specific to cultural and historical settings. Violent colonialism destroyed indigenous gender diversity globally and installed an observably false binary model of gender as a public fact.

Census authors can address this ongoing erasure by thinking about gender like religion. Gender and religious identities are social in nature; you can have one, or more, or none; you can change how you identify needing no permission; you can be as private or as public as you like with either, and there are no limits to the potential of new religions or genders forming. On the Canadian census, you can write in Jedi as your religion and be counted officially, and thousands do

To facilitate adequate opportunity for gender self-determination in census methods, the questions of sex and gender need to break out of binary mentality. Five options are required to reflect the diversity of sexed bodies in Canada: male, female, intersex, FTM (female to male transsexual), and MTF (male to female transsexual). Gender, like religion, must be asked as a fill-in-the-blank. The addition of an "other" or "gender diverse" option makes no attempt to reconcile that Canada's genocide against our indigenous peoples includes the public administration of binary gender.

Your offices have the authority to make the 2016 census a real reflection of diversity in Canada. I demand that all forthcoming censuses to reject binary gender and facilitate gender self-determination.

In 2016, count me in. Sincerely,