LGBTQ Groups Join Forces to “Queer the Census”

The National LGBTQ Task Force, in partnership with other groups, is utilizing webinars, online office hours, and volunteers to raise awareness about the 2020 Census as part of a broader effort aimed at making sure queer folks are counted in the once-a-decade nationwide survey.

The Task Force has consolidated that comprehensive effort at queerthecensus.org, which is serving as a hub of sorts to kick off the campaign to include queer folks in the 2020 Census. The campaign is an intersectional one that features groups representing different demographics — all with the common goal of representation in the Census. PFLAG, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the Movement Advancement Project are also partnering with the Task Force.

Queer groups and organizations, ranging from the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan — which is promoting a link on its website to help direct users to fill out the Census — to the Sacramento LGBT Center in California, have also helped spread the word.

On March 27, the first day of the Task Force’s mobilization campaign, the National LGBTQ Census Coalition gathered for a Twitter town hall focused on making sure Black LGBTQ people are counted.

While the 2020 Census will generate some identifying data about queer Americans, that information will be limited. The Census previously identified the relationship between couples in households as “husband and wife” or “unmarried partner,” but that has been expanded to include “same-sex husband/ wife/ spouse,” “same-sex unmarried partner,” “opposite-sex husband/ wife/ spouse,” and “opposite-sex unmarried partner.”

Notably, that omits LGBTQ individuals who are single or who do not live with their significant other, as well as those who cohabit with an different-sex partner but who identify as queer, bisexual, transgender, or non-binary, among other categories.

Still, organizers want to count as many queer folks as they can — and although the Census does not explicitly ask about sexual orientation or gender identity, there are additional reasons why the entire community should aim to be counted. It can improve accuracy of the population data to help to bolster the allocation of resources to their geographic communities through programs like Medicaid, public housing, and food stamps and, as significantly, it can help LGBTQ advocates demonstrate to legislators and policymakers the size of the community for whose needs they are seeking funding.

“The Census helps LGBTQ communities access billions in federal funding for social programs, helps us build political power, and helps us enforce civil rights protections,” Meghan Maury, policy director at the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a written statement.

The campaign, however, is clearly facing challenges due to widespread shutdowns stemming from the coronavirus crisis, and organizers have been forced to get creative in their efforts to spread awareness about the Census. It is not yet clear how the crisis will impact that effort, but in the meantime the US Census Bureau has postponed the Census deadline by two weeks. The counting was previously slated to conclude at the end of July, but has since been pushed back to the middle of August.

In another example of the importance of counting queer folks, the Task Force noted that the LGBTQ community is disproportionately represented in many cateogries that the Census Bureau has historically struggled to reach, including those who experience poverty or homelessness in addition to racial minorities and undocumented immigrants. The Task Force pointed to specific data on this score: 40 percent of young people facing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, non-white racial and ethnic groups are more likely to identify as LGBTQ, and queer immigrants are more likely to be undocumented.

“Like other marginalized communities, LGBTQ people have historically been undercounted on the Census,” Maury explained. “The ‘Queer the Census’ campaign is working to change that, so that our community can access the things it needs most — dollars, democracy, and justice.”

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