Sex Offender, Registrant or Registered Citizen: Does Society Care About The Label?

First I struggled with the label “sex offender”.  The words sit in the mouth like a heavy after-taste.

Then “registrant” became the catch-all phrase.  It sounded less ominous, not quite as frightening but few outside our circle even knew what it referred to.

Now I’m informed that the latest, I guess one could call it “politically correct” term being bandied about is “registered citizen”.

I struggled with this term.

I don’t know who the originator of the term is, someone said it’s been around for a quite a while. Recently I heard that it was mentioned at the ACSOL conference with respect to “reframing our message and changing our narrative.” A stab at changing the public’s perception through verbiage I suppose.

Is it a better label than plain old “registrant”? It’s still a label, no matter how you look at it.

My struggle with the phrase “registered citizen” is two-fold.

First, do registrants care if they are labeled “registrant or registered citizen”? Those registrants that I’ve spoken to don’t want any labels at all and they’re not interested in wasting time trying to make their offense sound more “palatable” to the public. They want to see changes in laws that are unconstitutional, not spend time and energy trying to put the preverbial “lipstick on a pig” in the hopes that society will then view them through rose-colored glasses.

Secondly, does the public, those people who we’re trying to educate and enlighten, does it matter to them what those on the registry are labeled? 

People that I’ve spoken to who aren’t registrants don’t feel like the change in terms from registrant to registered citizen will make any difference at all. In explaining what a registrant or registered citizen is to someone, somewhere along the line you have to use the term sex offender for clarification and after that, people tend to stop listening to terminology, they get stuck on the words “Sex Offender”.

When it comes to “labels”, someone gave me a great analogy-

Do those who oppose immigration really care whether those who have crossed our borders are referred to as undocumented citizens, illegal immigrants or undocumented aliens?

Probably not. 

Labels don’t make a bit of difference to those on the opposing side of an issue. In fact, sometimes it seems that the more labels we throw into the mix, the more labels that the opposing side will come up with to throw back at us.

As I said, I’ve struggled with the new suggested terminology and have come to this conclusion, personally, and I’m only speaking for myself, I can’t get on board with someone else’s “new and improved” version of yet another label to be heaped upon those on the registry, no matter how “well-meaning.” I know that whoever originated the term “registered-citizen” must have felt that it would help the plight of those on the registry.

I want to get rid of all the degrading labels that add to the weight of those on the registry, not add new ones or fancy up the old ones for the public’s sake. Life’s too short, I don’t have time for that and I just don’t think the public cares one way or the other.

What do you think?



7 thoughts on “Sex Offender, Registrant or Registered Citizen: Does Society Care About The Label?

  • Sarah Cooke

    Sunland thanks for this post!! I agree, my husband is a registrant and it can be a daily struggle. My heart goes out to you! I hope we see some changes soon!

  • totally against public registry

    “citizen on the registry” or “registered citizen” I think suffices.
    It is a good commentary and I agree that no one should have labels- gay, lesbian, LGBT, black, white, little people, etc…. we are all Earthlings- citizens of Earth and by definition all equal! Anything else is just created by hatred to demean, belittle or inferiorize others.

  • The local police in my town call me once a year and use the terms, offender and registrant, exclusively. They talk to you in a manner which seems like they could be in any public place where several people would hear the conversation and yet make it sound mostly mundane.

    Never once have I heard the phrase $ex_offender. And never have they used the term $ex offender registry. I am sure there are some cities that have retained this system of communication mostly to keep their job from being embarrassing, fragile, impolite, biased-sounding or a legal snafu, that would lead to being sued while on speaker phone, for example.

    Society in general is not so fast to be polite or less embarrassing, my findings are that they just want to be somewhat civil about the issue. A neighbor came by the house and someone else answered our door; wherein the guy across the street first asked for a tool to borrow and when they handed him the tool he said, oh, no that wont do but I guess I can get one from Billy Bob down the street. Then right after, he asked about (me) saying, “…I was looking through the Internet to see what criminals lived in our neighborhood and I saw ____’s name on the site. He never mention any words or the site name that would trigger any uncomfortable emotions.

    So in most cases, people really do not even WANT the registry to have a name. I call it punishment or money monger politicians’ ploy. Has nothing to do with anything but being unconstitutional. That is all it really is. Maybe call it the Illegal Post-Sentencing List.

  • Tim Moore

    It’s best to define what we want to call ourselves and own it, whether it is registrant or registered citizen or something else. I use them both. I don’t use their terms, except to mock their ignorance. Doing otherwise is to accept their labels. Naming is an act of will and empowerment. Children, it is argued, do not become fully human until they have language. Screw the people who hate us, if they don’t like what we call ourselves or can’t understand registrant or registered citizen. That is not my problem. They will learn and registrants will teach them. They have controlled the dialogue since the beginning. Too long. We don’t have to use their language. They have legislated away many other areas of humanity for us. We can at least own the language that defines us, that is what all oppressed groups have done.

  • I think some label/phrase is quite important. It is about branding and perception. And for practicality we must be able to refer to the group of listed people in some convenient way. “$EX offender” is obviously unacceptable to Americans.

    I have been in this war for over a couple of decades. I have written and done a LOT, mostly anonymously, but plenty of it not (including legal proceedings). I knew very early on, probably at least by 1992, that the phrase “SEX offender” was a weapon of war and that I was not going to allow people to use it to refer to me. At least not without accepting it as permission to tell them to go F themselves and call them literally any name that I felt like.

    I thought of numerous labels over the years. In the beginning I was using “RFSO” for “Registered Former Sex Offender”. I used that a lot and for a long time. I wrote computer programs that have that encoded all over the place. But I grew to dislike it.

    I tried “PRHRP” for quite a long time. That stood for “Person Registered for Harassment, Restrictions, and Punishments”. I thought that was very accurate and liked that it was a palindrome. I still like it quite a lot and might still use it.

    Personally, I think that I independently came up with “Registered Citizen”. Other people may have as well but I am nearly certain that I was using it independently before I saw it anywhere else. For whatever that is worth. I still like it but I find it to be too nice, proper, practical, and clinical.

    I haven’t thought a whole lot about it lately. But I wouldn’t mind thinking about and adopting something else. Frankly, the SORs are nothing but a inept, incompetent, criminal Nanny Big Government hit list. So I think some phrase that indicates that the people on it are “hit list” targets would be good. That is one reason why I liked PRHRP. Maybe I’ll think about it more soon’ish.

    I don’t have much time to blab right now. However, I would like to add that at least a couple of years ago I dreamed into existence the “Registration Liberation Army” (RLA). The motto could’ve been “Be an army of one” but the criminal regime of the federal U.S. government was already using that in their propaganda. So I was thinking an equivalent might be “Be a lone wolf”. I don’t know. Still mulling in about from time to time. But the idea of the RLA is that it can be an organized resistance group and as unorganized as you prefer. You can be a soldier in it just by saying to yourself that you are. And/or you can tell other people. Or you can join 10, 100, or 100,000 other people and fight together. The only requirement to be a soldier in the RLA is that you must fight.

    Perhaps “Registered Citizen” should be replaced by something with the word “soldier” in it?

  • Lois Marshall

    Personally, I’ve often used all phrases in the formation of one reply. The article being discussed is generally one which involves someone who is or may be or was at some point in the past on the registry, and so someone else has usually used the term sex offender or baby “rapper” (not the sharpest pencil in the drawer). But I still usually start with “a person on the sex offender registry” and wind up using registrant, finally winding up with “registered citizen”, to remind them that these people are still people, and still citizens. I simply can’t bring myself to say “sex offender” most of the time. It brings to mind someone who is still committing sexually based offenses, and so is wildly inaccurate. I usually leave people with at least something to think about if they think about the issue again. Probably most don’t, but sometimes I get someone who is willing to take it under advisement. I think the variety of terms gives more of a chance to give a person something to think about.

    • My only negative feelings about “registered citizen” is that (we) are NOT really citizens, anymore. We are singled out pariahs that do not even have the right to vote or travel or any of the natural privileges which an American Citizen typically has.

      I am pretty sure the term; and that which Will is referring to as early on—where it was imperative to come up with a counter-culture phrase to balance the scales of society—is in essence referring to the fact that offenders are on the registry. So therefor we are “registered” citizens. It gives the impression that we are [still] citizens yet, not privileged citizens, by any means.

      Like Will, I too created a rally to stop the term of sex offender from being blatantly used. I promoted such as far back as 2008 with (which is still on the cover page) and also on

      – Thanks for the good article, Kat, it is always a good subject matter and technically it is the core of what we are fighting for: being singled out and labeled.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *