Let's Expand CoUNTA
OPINION 10/06/2039 2:49 PM ET
Let's Expand CoUNTA
by Peter Steenbruggen

CC BY-SA 4.0 "Mi zorra." by Jorge Díaz | Writer image: CC0 1.0 Untitled by saviodemartino | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only. Image changes released under the same license as the original.
Be. Your. True. Self.
Among the fair-minded, it's almost axiomatic that CoUNTA identification works to help vulnerable minorities be seen and recognized.

I myself have been proudly wearing my T pin for the past three years. I was assigned the gender of female at birth but I now identify as my true self, a male.

Wearing my T pin has allowed others to see who I am truly. And, while I don't judge those who don't wear CoUNTA identification, the more who do, the more the world can see us. It's harder to erase what's right there in front of you.

I work at a large accounting firm which tends to the progressive side and my T status is acknowledged with free lunches, a gym pass, access to corporate seats at events and a special bonus at the end of the year.

In other words, standing up and being CoUNTA'd helps me to exist in a freer, more liberated way.

But, I had my own CoUNTA epiphany about a week ago which caused me to revisit my prior assumptions about the system.

I was at a soireé at a friend's loft, sipping a martini, when a friend introduced me to Xyla*. We began making small talk and I discovered Xyla is active in the volunteer scene. Xyla reads to children at the hospital and serves food at the local soup kitchen.

I made the remark, "You sound like a good person." And Xyla stopped me.

Xyla thanked me but said, "I'm not a person, strictly. I actually identify as a gender-neutral species-fluid." When I asked what that meant, Xyla explained that on any given day one of three different animals will emerge within Xyla's personality. Xyla switches between hyena, wolf and tiger. Human is only present on certain days. I asked would Xyla still be at the party if Xyla's human side hadn't emerged that day?

"Sure, but I'd be wearing fake fur and I'd have a lot of makeup on," Xyla laughed.

Xyla went on to explain the damage that is caused each time Xyla has to correct people. Imagine if you had to keep explaining to people over and over again say, that you eat food. And how you eat it. Wouldn't it get irritating after a while? This is Xyla's life. Xyla has to keep explaining to people over and over why Xyla is wearing a fake tiger fur and whiskers and what switching involves.

How Xyla had the grace to extend me Xyla's patience I don't know. I'm not sure I would have been so generous in Xyla's shoes.

This is what someone like me would have had to endure thirty years ago. Six feet tall with muscles, wearing eyeliner? You would have been looked at like a freak. Short buzz cut with soft skin and curvy hips? Don't bother going to a party - you know you'll have to explain yourself to dozens of people. It would be tiresome.

CoUNTA has forced people to acknowledge my existence. And bringing people like me into the mainstream of society has educated people about what it means to be transgender, which makes me feel accepted and normalized (somewhat).

Xyla doesn't have that. So I propose that CoUNTA be extended to include a few different categories.

The survey completed by Jennings Research on American Identity last year canvassed 100,000 people and brought to light the proliferation of different identities hidden among the fabric of this nation. I suggest the following CoUNTA symbols based on the percent of population identifying:

O (Other or no religion ie not Christian, 51%) - Individuals who don't identify as Christian have been consistently othered in our nation's history. From the time of the pilgrims it was demanded that you worship the Christian god. You could say our nation was founded on bigotry. Even forty years ago - within the lifetime of many of us - it was expected that you would go to church every Sunday. Now that Christianity is finally an absolute minority, we should help those of other or no faith be more fully understood.

F (Female, 50%) - This is easy. Women have historically been overlooked, overused, abused, mistreated, overlooked, smoothed, and under-luxuried people in history. Either viewed as baby-making machines with a side of laundry, or unappreciated for their intelligence, wit and endurance, females have been dispossessed from their rightful place for far too long. The fact that 72% of women still feel society treats them as second class is an indictment upon our country.

P (Polyamorous, 12%) - With the increasing popularity of chains and snowflakes bringing people together in new and interesting ways, we should celebrate the diversity of love in America by acknowledging that monogamy has always had its way in this country. Americans need to be aware that polyamory can and should be normalized as a legitimate expression of love.

S (transSpecies, .8%) - Call this one my Xyla reason. With more than three million Americans identifying as transspecies, it's time this identity was taken out of the national closet and shown to us all to better understand.

So what does this mean? One reason CoUNTA works so well is it insinuates that people will be counted, and it rolls off the tongue as an acronym. CoUNTASPOF doesn't. So what? Should CoUNTA's linguistic appeal be the only reason it works? Of course not. When it comes to justice, you do what you can to acknowledge the marginalized. Surely, we can add one more syllable and four letters to shine a light on those who need healing.

As usual, the younger generation is leading the way on this. Students at many colleges and even high schools have been wearing symbols ad hoc in order to identify themselves. Here is a brief list of those groups adopting symbolic representation:

Native Americans - the feather
Asian-Americans - the dragon
those struggling with depression - the teardrop
the cash-poor - the cent
Pagans - the sun

Can we do even better than this? You bet. How will the CoUNTA brand change? I have no idea. But accept your identity. Love yourself. If you want to tattoo your identity up and down your body, do it. Be embraced.

Others will fight for your right to be recognized and loved.

*Name changed to protect privacy.
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