Arts & Entertainment
Why - and how - we should queer the census
Originally printed 12/10/2009 (Issue 1750 - Between The Lines News)
Every household will be sent a census form in March of 2010 - but not everyone will care about filling it out, and doing so accurately. But here's one category of U.S. citizens who should care about filling out those decennial forms: LGBT Americans.
We can't show who we are as individuals (there's no question about sexual orientation on the forms), and many may complain that gender and relationship categories are too rigid, offering only male and female; husband, wife, single, unmarried partner or divorced as options in those two respective categories.
But we can show our relationships, and for the first time in the history of the U.S. census, we can show our marriages.
But before waving our pride flags high on this federal documentation of national statistics, there are a few things every LGBT American should know about the census.
First of all, you should signify your partnership to the best of your knowledge. Married in Canada or Massachusetts? Go ahead and mark married. Domestic partnership in Hawaii? Up to you. The census asks for the truth "as we know it." That means they're looking at not only what the government says, but how we view our own relationships. If you consider yourself to be married, mark married. If not, don't. Simple as that.
A second thing to remember is that the government will not discriminate against you if you represent your same-sex partnership. It's never been documented, and that's not what the census is for. So please be honest.
Another important point for those of you in biracial relationships where one person is white: Minorities are grossly underrepresented in the census, and this could result in a lack of funds going to places and people that need it most. To ensure that the minority in your household is counted, make sure that the white member of the relationship is not written in as the head of household. Otherwise, the entire household will be marked as white.
The most important thing to remember is that the census is a crucial component to creating public policy - including LGBT rights laws. It gives advocacy groups statistics to back their arguments, and it shows legislators where we are, who we are and what we need. It will also be important in the fight for eventually including a question about sexual orientation and gender identity on future annual and decennial census forms.
Hate being ignored by the government? Wish we had more resources? Tired of the stereotypes that the LGBT community is white, rich and suburban?
Fight back on your census form! Show them who you are. Our relationships will be counted in the 2010 census in all their forms - so let's make sure we're seen and heard. Let's queer the census.