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P E R S P E C T I V E : G u e s t C o n t r ib u t o r
Census 2020: Complicated for the
LGBTQ Community, But It Counts
Glenn D. Magpantay..
BY GLENN D. MAGPANTAY
By now, everyone should
have received a mailing
from the US Census Bureau
to get counted. I have
complicated feelings about the Census.
While the Census is critically important
to ensure a fair allocation
of funding for services and political
representation, it will not deliver the
full acceptance and freedom of the
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,
and queer community. After all, it’s a
government survey. It will not capture
the breadth of human experience in
America today. So why are my feelings
about it “ complicated?
It’s About Me and Who I Am
Some aspects of my identity are
refl ected in the Census. I’m gay.
There is no Census question asking
about sexual orientation. Yet, the
relationship question counts samesex
married spouses and unmarried
partners. While the number of
same-sex couples is a poor proxy for
the nation’s overall sexual orientation
breakdown, the 2010 Census uncovered
more than 700,000 same-sex
couples in the US.
I’m a dad of an adopted African-
American child. Many LGBTQ people
build families through adoption. The
Census counts transracial families.
In fact, every year Census data is
used to allocate $8 billion for foster
care and adoption assistance that
can help queers start families.
But It Doesn’t Refl ect My Community
At the same time, my community
is erased. Trans and gender non-conforming
people must respond to a binary
sex question. They must choose
between their sex assigned at birth
and how they identity today. The Census
asks about biology, not identity,
and today while Facebook has more
than 52 gender options, the US government
has only two. That sucks.
Even India, Nepal, Pakistan, and
New York, Washington State, and Oregon
recognize a non-binary gender.
My organization, the National Queer
Asian Pacifi c Islander Alliance (NQAPIA),
and I have urged the Census
Bureau to recognize all of our community.
It’s Critically Important
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,
health care is especially critical.
The Census is used to allocate
$311 billion in medical assistance
annually, according to the George
Washington University Institute for
Public Policy. More resources fl ow to
where there is greater need based on
the relative size of the population.
I teach a class on Asian American
Queerness at Hunter College CUNY.
So many of my students benefi t from
the $29 billion in fi nancial aid for college
(through Pell grants) every year.
I came out in the 1980s, at the
height of the AIDS crisis. When I was
in ACT UP, I fought hard to stop the
spread of HIV/ AIDS. The Census
continues to be used to allocate $645
million in HIV funding.
I could go on and recount the importance
of an accurate Census:
$457 million for community mental
$133 million for domestic violence
prevention programs that include
protections against same-sex intimate
$48 million for community arts
programs, including support for
queer and trans artists
$4.7 million to prevent abuse, neglect,
and exploitation of elders
The more people who respond to
the Census, the more likely resources
will fl ow to under-resourced communities.
It’s About Political Power and Infl
But for me the most importance aspect
of the Census is the political infl
uence that the data drives. The Census
can be a check on the outsized
political infl uence that some intolerant
states command when apportioning
congressional seats among the
states based on population.
Census data is also used to redraw
congressional, state legislative,
and City Council district boundaries
to make them equal in population.
Sure, some districts can be gerrymandered.
But voting rights advocates
can also use the data to draw
districts that give communities of color
and all those who have been traditionally
underrepresented a voice in
the halls of power.
It’s Mandatory and Ensures Safety
The Census is required by law.
People can be fi ned $100 for not responding.
Federal law also ensures
that personal information is private
and may not be shared with immigration
authorities, the IRS, or law
I am a lawyer. I reviewed the law
➤ CENSUS 2020, continued on p.15
April 23 - May 6,14 2020 | GayCityNews.com