the non profit industrial complex

you are asked to take the place of your director on a steering committee for king county's annual homelessness count project. 

you add this to your growing list of meetings and to the list of duties not being paid their dime. 

you arrive to see that you are the only brown person in the room. 

the research team is all white and none are residents of WA. 

they share two tools they're employing for the count: a visual tally and a qualitative survey.

the visual tally is to be completed by volunteers who check off what they see as they roam around their assigned areas. 

the visual tally includes gender. 

the surveyor, by their own eyes and by their own ideas of what a "male", "female", or "transgender" person looks like, makes the determination of the gender of the person that they see. 

there is no conversation or interaction, just drive-by visual assumptions. 

you think about the flaws of relying on an arbitrary and binary system that dictates that a “male” looks a certain way, a “female” looks a certain way, and that a “transgender” person looks a certain way. 

you think about how this method inevitably misrepresents, under-represents, or excludes individuals who have the greatest history of barrier to homelessness services. 

you vocalize this. 

you say that as facilitators of a process that the county has long relied on for data to guide funding and policy decisions, we should regard our responsibility in being thoughtful and equitable about how we capture people's identities. 

to appeal to folks who don't care about gender disparities, you argue that this work wouldn't be producing valid or reliable data. 

a few people nod in agreement, but the research team deflects your points and the conversation ends. 

you leave the meeting and a county representative at the same meeting thanks you for sharing your thoughts and compliments you on your "eloquence." 

as if it's a surprise that brown folx can be eloquent. 

as if being complimented diffuses the nausea of all the emotional hustling you do to survive working inside of a system that's killing your people. 

this is the fxked up irony of the work - that we struggle in order to get free and fight to death in order to have life.

thy nguyenComment