Mar. 16th, 2010

Just filled out my census form. They estimate it it would take ten minutes, but for lulz I timed myself.

1 minute. The hardest question was how old I am, which I always have to calculate. It might take an extra thirty seconds for each extra person who lived with me if there were any.

Of course, I will soon be paid to shill for the Census, but even without that I am quite amazed at how streamlined the questionnaire is this year. Aside from the age (which is extraneous information since they also ask for your birthdate), there really aren't any stupid or useless questions there. And no "long form" at all, they're doing an entirely different thing there now and I don't think it's our problem (although training might prove me wrong and my job will be precisely proctoring what has become of the long form).

So, I appreciate the sentiments of Queer the Census but still think that they missed the point. The Census could be the world's most awesome longitudinal study where we keep track of everyone's gender preference and probably religion, educational level, national origin, income, or any other number of highly relevant factors, but it isn't. It is a simple head-count with a few extra questions to monitor how communities are in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and fair housing and things like that. I think that you'd have to make a compelling case for why the government should precisely track the density levels of self-identified LGBT-ness throughout the country that would justify the extra printing and tabulation costs and privacy fears, and frankly I don't think that a sincere desire to be counted meets that threshold.

On the other hand, I do regret that the gender choice is binary and mandatory. My current (pre-training) understanding is that participants are permitted to select the gender that they self-identify without any "proof" from biology or legal status, but there is still a segment of the community that is not served by the binary choice, and the Census should be made to recognize and address that in the future. Always room for progress.

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Matthew Daly

December 2012

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