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How do you like to classify yourself?

In this year’s census, for the first time, sexual orientation and gender identity were asked for and recorded.

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I always pause over questions on gender and sexual orientation. Is this a question my friends and I could happily answer, let alone people I’ve never met? Gender, in particular, is a standard question in many surveys – but common doesn’t mean simple. I’ve studied Queer Theory, though I’m far from an expert, and these questions bring to mind those who tend to fall between the gaps of their multiple-choice responses. 

In this year’s census, for the first time, sexual orientation and gender identity were asked for and recorded. Some of our surveys ask for this information as well – and I couldn’t help but notice the difference between their questions and ours. 

There were four options: 

  • Heterosexual 
  • Homosexual 
  • Bisexual 
  • Other 

While it’s true “other” covers your bases, it can feel exclusionary to those not listed by name – at the very least I’d include “Asexual”, as one in no way described by the other three terms, and ideally the question would look more like… 

Which of the following best describes your sexual orientation? 

  • Heterosexual  
  • Homosexual 
  • Bisexual 
  • Asexual 
  • Pansexual 
  • Queer  
  • Other 

And while the question on gender identity is an excellent step forward, the census nevertheless began with a binary choice on sex: Male or Female. There was no option here for anyone who might be intersex, and no guidance in the question for trans people – my suggestion here would be to specify either sex assigned at birth, or legal sex (e.g. on your passport), rather than leave the question unclear or uncomfortable to answer. 

These might seem like small things, but they’re a part of helping people feel seen and represented. I think the census should continue to do better, and that our own surveys should continue to include identities that are so often overlooked.  

“Other” can be othering. Let’s name as many as we can.