Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Why the census matters to LGBT folks, & why it makes me want to scream

This month you and me and all of our friends will receive census forms in the mail. Even though the forms, and the census itself, will pretend that large portions of the LGBT population don't exist, the 2010 census still represents an equality breakthrough, according to the activists closest to the big count.

This morning published my article exploring LGBT America's twisted history with the Census Bureau and a second piece reporting how queer folks can guarantee that they will be counted.

The bad news is that the census will not ask about sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that single and widowed lesbians, gays and bisexuals will be magically assumed to be heterosexual. Transgendered Americans will be completely invisible.

Why does the census make me want to scream? Consider this:
The 2010 Census, however, will also put a huge hole in the LGBT population. While the census counts same-sex couples, it does not identify those who are widowed, divorced or single as being lesbian, gay or bisexual. Transgendered people will be counted as the gender they identify with, but they will not be identified as transgendered. This is because the form does not include a question about sexual orientation or gender identity.

This sets up some surreal situations. Consider the case of an elderly Massachusetts lesbian who is legally married to her long-term partner. If her spouse dies on March 31, the day before the census is taken, she would be eliminated from the count of same-sex couples. If her spouse dies on April 2, the day after Census Day, this woman’s lesbian identity would remain intact.

But there is good news -- and lots of it. The Census Bureau is making a greater effort than ever before to count same-sex couples, and that may well tip a multitude of civil rights battles in favor of LGB Americans. For more details, see 365Gay.

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