Grammar and gender

14 May 2013 by Lee Turnpenny, posted in Uncategorized

This is the letter that landed 100 academics the inaugural Idler Academy Bad Grammar award. Well, we might pedantically recoil at a missing comma and a misplaced apostrophe in the very first sentence of the clunky first paragraph; and frown quizzically at the unlikelihood of 100 failed cursory proof-readings of an early draft (which suggests to me that most of the signatories did not see the final version). Feel free to pick me up on any grammatical slips here. But what has recently bothered me more is the intrusiveness of the grammar of the HR department of (at least) one UK university.

I have in the past sounded off on quizzed the legitimacy of the HR practice of collecting one's 'private' details before an offer of employment is made. Apparently in the name of diversity/equal opportunity monitoring. It seems that universities are having to demonstrate their counter-discriminatory inclusiveness, not by appointments, but through their box-ticking appeal to a diversity of applicants.

Anyway... the most recent example had me wrestling with one of the most vexatious application forms I've yet encountered. And, in the 'Additional/Further Questions' section, after being asked whether I am male or female, came this grammatical bolus:

'Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were originally assigned at birth?'

Take a moment to read that through another couple of times, will you? Aside from its utter impertinence, what do you think?

This strikes me as Pythonesque: "Can we have your liver, then?"; "How much more personal can you get?!". I don't know whether a potential transgender applicant (or should that be transgender potential applicant?) would be encouraged or put off or ambivalent on this. Presumably the metrics of the collected data will answer that. To me it is incomprehensible and unanswerable. So I didn't. Nosey bleeders!

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