Census needs to reflect modern reality about gender | Toronto Star

I am sure StatsCan is already thinking about this in the context of the 2021 Census and the best means to do so (may just be an “other” category:

After 10 years, the long-form Canadian census is back. Young Canadians, primed by a decade of digital media saturation, flocked online in droves so large we took down the website.

It makes sense — and it’s not just false enthusiasm as we collectively do our duty because “it’s the law.” A generation used to sharing its descriptive statistics online (finding friends, networking, dating) would intuitively understand the benefit of the census. Understanding the sociodemographic landscape helps us know and better service ourselves. And after all, that’s what millennials want: a fairer and more representative social democracy.

Yet, as Canadians fill out the census, some gawk at the glaring anachronism of the gender binary, the idea that there are two mutually exclusive genders: males and females, who occupy distinct cultural, social, and sexual roles.

But we know this isn’t true. The recent media awakening to transgender people (Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Jazz Jennings) is evidence that gender variance has gone mainstream.

If we recognize men and women who identify with the genders they were assigned at birth (cisgender) and we recognize men and women who do not identify with their assigned gender (transgender), then surely we agree this difference is worth recording.

As my friend quipped, “Well, they’re not asking about gender. They’re asking about sex!” His point reflects the growing awareness about gender as the patterns of behaviour and expression associated with its respective sex categories. This is good. It shows a recognition of people whose self-concepts do not match the gender assigned them at birth.

…Despite a variety of new ways to capture gender variation in the population, this simple two-step approach takes us miles further than the two-option approach of the 2016 Census:

  1. Do you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth? Yes / No / Not sure / Prefer not to say
  2. Please indicate your current gender: Male, Female, Non-Binary, Intersex, Other (please describe):

As the 2016 census has done with its categories for race, we must open up how we assess gender. I know it seems hard, but let’s no longer pretend we cannot do better.

Source: Census needs to reflect modern reality about gender | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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