There is an implicit social expectation that people will have traits and identities which settle seamlessly into specific categories, a tab fit to a slot, a demographic label effortlessly named to keep a census streamlined and tidy. One may have a gender identity, an age, a nationality, a romantic or sexual orientation, a religion. One certainly has a specific height and weight at any given moment; one's vision may be 20/20; one's morality may adhere to absolutes or to assumed relativity.

Social errors surface periodically based on one person's unequal belief about these identities, relative to another person's belief about them: perhaps they place priority on different categories- one identifying first and most strongly as a New Yorker, and expecting the other to identify likewise first as the resident of a city, when in fact the other's strongest label for self-regard is "bisexual woman" or "Mormon" or "pediatrician" or "father." Perhaps one expects the other to hold a strong opinion about some political or other topic, and to base an identity around that, while the latter either holds no political preference, or deliberately abstains from allowing such preferences to be the foundation of their identity. In most cases, there is no significant misunderstanding in how the other person identifies; the respective identities are simply mutually exclusive and mutually hostile, an "Us versus Them" attitude which neither party can freely abide without feeling they each betray their own identity and integrity.

One possible method by which to work around these social errors- or at least to avoid being, oneself, a perpetrator of them upon other persons, even if one remains vulnerable to other people performing them- is to intentionally leave these identity categories blank: anonymity as moral imperative. In avoidance of interfaith hostility, a person may consider himself an agnostic atheist, taking no confrontational position relative to other religions and cautiously abstaining from participating in that identity category altogether. Likewise, a person may feel purely alienated by all common available labels within a given category, and may simply reject that category as not applying to them at all; this is the case for many agender individuals.

Any survey may have or lack a "none of the above" option for questions of identity. In such cases, it is a merciful thing to have a box marked "other," with room to enter one's own self-statement, even if that statement is N/A. The first and simplest way to ensure everybody has a voice is to stop assuming we already know every possible answer to the question, "Who are you?"

Iron Noder 2015, 29/30

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