The mandatory, long-form census will make its return to Canada this year but with it will come the same options for sex: male, female, and no checkbox for anything else. And for Quinn Nelson, that's just not going to work.
Nelson, a non-binary student at the University of Calgary, doesn't fit into either box so they reached out to MP Navdeep Singh Bains.
Non-binary people do not identify as exclusively male or female and Nelson uses the pronoun "they" rather than "she" or "he."
For those who are non-binary, intersex, fluid, or transgender, selecting either "male" or "female" isn't a straightforward choice. Considering that failing to complete the census is punishable by fines or jail time, that's a problem.
"I have a major concern however with the exclusionary way that the category of gender/sex has in the past been strictly limited to an option of either male or female," Nelson wrote to Bains.
"As a non-binary transgender individual, I would be wholly unable to fill out a census (long or short) accurate and completely."
It took a month, but Nelson eventually got a response from Statistics Canada. Nelson wrote a Facebook note — that has now been shared more than 350 times — showing the exchange between themself and Bains' office.
A Statistics Canada spokesperson told Nelson that transgender Canadians are encouraged to "indicate the sex (either male or female) with which they most identify."
"I think the way it was worded and what was said showed a good understanding of the issue," Nelson told BuzzFeed Canada.
"I especially liked the wording that trans people are encouraged to choose the option that they most identify with, which recognizes that even for people who do identify as one [gender], that it's not always 100%."
Those who don't fit on either end of the binary, however, do have an option. Canadians can leave the question blank as long as they explain why in the "comments" section. This option will also be available if the form is completed online.
Statistics Canada also told BuzzFeed Canada it has "established a process that will assist transgender people in responding to the 2016 Census" and information will be available online. Census staff will also be trained to provide information on how to skip the question.
Will things be different by 2021? It's possible.
Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.
Contact Lauren Strapagiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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