Thursday, October 22, the US Census hosted a meeting in San Francisco at the SF LGBT Center to encourage LGBT participation in the 2010 census.
The census is upon us. Every decade the US sets about collecting data about the people living in the country. The first question to be answered by the census is how many millions of people reside in the US.
How many women, men and children live here? Where do we live, who do we live with, what race(s) we are, what are the relationships of the people living in our houses.
This last question is particularly important to us in the LGBT community. As I write this, gay and lesbian couples can get married in Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and Connecticut. Maine is pending the outcome of their referendum vote in November. There are approximately 16,000 couples married here and living here in California when it was legal.
But there is not a question on the census that allows same sex couples to indicate that we are married. We can say we are living together as unmarried partners. Now I have a spouse, we are legally married in California.
Apparently the Feds didn't want to get into that complication. Where did you get married? What state? What country? Especially with the changing state of legal marriage in the country, they did not want to skew the data with information that is in flux.
For a more thorough report on the meeting and the thoughts of the census folks, please read Lisa Leff's excellent report here.
I attended the meeting in SF with an eye to minority outreach for hard to reach (HTC) populations. For me this would be the Spanish speaking, undocumented LGBT population. I also attended the Latino/Asian census meeting the week before.
This is the perfect example for those of us living in multiple intersections. Attendance is needed in both venues to make sure our identities are represented and included in the planning and execution of the census. We live in both those worlds, undocumented and sexual outlaws. How do we reflect who we are in a census that does not recognize LGBT or our relationships. Thankfully we do not have to inform the government about our status, at least on this paper count.
Left to some of the Neanderthals of the Republican party who, of course, have no understanding of how their own systems work, the census would be a work in progress until the day they get mailed out. There was a proposal recently by Jeff Sessions of Alabama that the form be changed now to ask the question of whether people are here legally.
Um, Senator, that won't work the same way we can't get the form changed to reflect the LGBT population and our relationships.
Plus this also sets out an important agenda for the LGBT population for the 2020 census. It is critical the make the LGBT population be counted in the next census. Think what data we would have in the hands of our demographers, how many African America, Latino, Asian people who are also queer would suddenly have a presence in the count?
It would be amazing to see things we already know: we are everywhere, in every county in the country. African American LGBT people live in concentrations with other black populations, or not. The same goes for the Latino and Asian communities, where are we? Do undocumented people really hide in the shadows or are they out, working, buying houses, owning businesses, going to school?
The census intends to shed a light on all of those living here in 2010. For many this count is a source of concern, will the government come after me? Will I have to leave? Can I stay with my spouse and our children?
I guess it is always important to make sure that we understand that with bright light, there are also dark shadows. It is enormously important that we, all of us, living on the fringes, hold the hands of those standing just outside the light. We can gently pull them in with us or we can step back into their darkness and help them fill out the form. That revolutionary act alone will benefit all of us because we can be as one, people living in the United States, willing to be counted.
Just make enough boxes for all of us to check so we all get counted as whole, valuable people living here.