The U.S. Census Bureau released a version of its plans for the 2020 census last week, and for the first time, it proposed tallying gender identity and sexual orientation. Shortly after, Census Bureau Director John Thomson announced that the question was a mistake that was never meant to be included. While same-sex couples have been counted in the census since 1990, this is the first indication that gender identity and sexual orientation would be considered, despite years of LGBTQ advocacy groups pushing on this issue. The bureau’s continual refusal to tally LGBTQ people is an attempt to erase us from government consideration and deny us resources.
The census is more than just a tally of people. It is a determinant for quality of life as controlled by the government, used to measure the needs of each community and distribute funds and resources accordingly. Local communities in particular use census reports to properly implement support programs like food stamps, housing accommodations and other protective services, as well as for research in health and education. Without data on queer people, the government cannot adequately assess our needs or devise policies to protect us. For instance, it is believed that the LGBTQ community is particularly affected by homelessness, but that issue cannot be properly addressed without hard data.
Further, the bureau’s actions reflect the general queerphobic attitudes of the American people that still persist in our so-called advanced society. Queerness may seem more visible than ever in certain subcultures and facets of consciousness, but there’s still progress to be made. Exclusion of the queer community in the census is unfair and pejorative.
Somehow, LGBTQ recognition made its way onto the draft and was rejected. It seems like the government knows we exist but doesn’t want everyone else to find out. The Trump administration, of course, wants to reclaim as much power as it can from susceptible groups of Americans, and thinks that because we’re perceived as vulnerable, the queer community is an easy target.
People who oppose normalization of gender nonconformity are mainly just scared. They’re scared to embrace something that goes against what they’ve been taught is normal. Their apprehension is, in a way, just as natural as our queerness.
But people are not going to stop being queer. We are not going to see a decrease in the number of individuals diverging from the gender binary. We will continue to act, to make ourselves known and to resist compromise. We will continue to thrive. If anything, this decision should encourage us to be more active and vocal about our existence and right to be counted.
Queerness is not a decision or a trend. It’s really not a big deal if someone is different — it’s the denial of human rights that’s the problem. That’s why we have to fight to be understood. It’s not fair, but the mistreatment of minorities is not going to go away on its own.
With all the intolerant homophobes and conventional naysayers out there, we must be even louder than before. Let’s make them regret thinking they could simply cast us aside like some spurious millennial trend, but let’s do it in a way that manifests our humanity. Our ability to transcend boundaries and go beyond tradition in our queerness is a beautiful thing, and once people see that, they’ll want to celebrate it too.