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Why the census matters

Census data matters. It is the basis on which government decisions – including the allocation of resource and spending decisions – get taken. No trans data, no dosh. Well: not quite. But it makes the arguing for all manner of things, from subsidies to protection from discrimination that much more difficult. And that is exactly why not just Donald Trump, but anti-trans groups in general have been straining every single propaganda muscle they have to get trans people either removed from census or at very least marginalised into insignificance.

by jane fae

There are, I hear, some trans folks who would like us to boycott the upcoming census. Or at least any trans-related questions in it. Or maybe just not have trans-related questions in the first place. A plague on the Office of National Statistics and their Big Brotherly ways!

Which is a shame, because having worked with the ONS over many years, my experience has been that for the most part, they are well-intentioned, but a bit geeky. So not always as sensitive to the nuances of diversity issues as they might be. But they do try.

I am not unsympathetic to this suggestion. I have long been aware of concerns in the trans community about trans and non-binary folk ending up on a government hit list. But, the complacent ones riposte: Britain is a democracy. It’s tolerant. That sort of thing could NEVER HAPPEN HERE!

To which I counter-riposte: wake up and smell the bitter coffee that’s brewing. Have you noticed the hate on the street lately? Is it unthinkable that politics here could go very, very pear-shaped indeed?

A few years back, I wrote, at some length, about how a fascist-infiltrated police force in northern Greece was using lists of people who had undergone trans-related healthcare as their go-to roll call for locking people up. No crime necessary. Other than being trans.

So don’t tell me it can’t happen here. In the words of a certain James Bond: “Never say never”. Again. Still, I am loath to boycott, for three very strong reasons.

Wearing my data sec hat: if I wanted to persecute trans people, there are far better sources of data around than census data. Espesh as the latter is not tied uniquely, in many cases, to an individual.

First orders to my transfinder army would be to head down to the GIC’s and the private clinics that support trans people (not forgetting the various social media on which we daily expose ourselves … but not like THAT!) and grab all the lists. Census and census data would be very low priority, if I cared about it at all.

Census data matters. It is the basis on which government decisions – including the allocation of resource and spending decisions – get taken. No trans data, no dosh. Well: not quite. But it makes the arguing for all manner of things, from subsidies to protection from discrimination that much more difficult. And …

… that is exactly why not just Donald Trump, but anti-trans groups in general have been straining every single propaganda muscle they have to get trans people either removed from census or at very least marginalised into insignificance.

And you know what: if it’s a thing that the anti-trans, gender crit, bigots and butch-haters desperately want to happen, I’d think twice before supporting moves to give them exactly what they want. The census is not perfect. Nor is our government. But now is not the time to be opting out.


Picture of jane fae
jane fae, writer, occasional stand-up and professional nuisance. Also director of TransActual and chair of Trans Media Watch.

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