Self Identification

This was the first year that I ever got to fill out a cen­sus as hus­band, father, home­own­er, and all around adult. The last cen­sus, both Angela and I were liv­ing in a dor­mi­to­ries (in two dif­fer­ent states, no less). It was such an small but sat­is­fac­to­ry sense of self-worth.

In the big­ger pic­ture, the U.S. Cen­sus is a con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-man­dat­ed check-up on who makes up our coun­try. But some­thing that real­ly struck me is that it is no longer about what labels can the gov­ern­ment assign to us so much as it is a ques­tion­naire of how we see our­selves. My wife was absolute­ly thrilled that she was able to check more than one box for race (you’d be sur­prised how many forms still only allow for one option). So, she able to describe to the gov­ern­ment how she sees her­self as well as how we see our children.

There is a short, cutesy video explain­ing to same-sex cou­ples that they are allowed to mark how they view them­selves and their rela­tion­ship. It’s short and stars George Takei and his hus­band, Brad Altman:

The same con­cept applies here: the cen­sus is about dis­cov­er­ing how we view our­selves and not what labels oth­ers want to use. Whether it be race or mar­i­tal sta­tus on the cen­sus, or reli­gion or even gen­der, I — and my coun­try — am real­iz­ing that self iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is far more impor­tant that exter­nal labels.

In a coun­try where indi­vid­u­al­ism is cel­e­brat­ed, this is the cen­sus we should use1. The gov­ern­ment of the peo­ple has to let the peo­ple define themselves.

  1. Though, in 2020, it damn well bet­ter be elec­tron­ic! []

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

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