Queering the Census

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The sticker in question

While the official Census Day (April 1) has come and gone, it’s not too late to fill one out and send it in–civic duty, people! (And you should be getting Census materials from your RA any day now, anyway.) While you’re doing that, the Columbia Queer Alliance has asked you to consider–and protest–this Census’ absence of a gender/sexual identity question.

Working with a national organization called Queer the Census, CQA has distributed a number of pink stickers with that missing question that you can fill out and affix to the back of your Census.  While CQA only has a limited number of these stickers, you can also head to the Queer the Census website to make sure your voice is heard. Below, the letter printed on the back of each sticker.

Dear Fellow Columbian,

Every 10 years, the U.S. government spends over $400 billion in order to count every resident of the United States through the Constitutionally-mandated Census. Logistically, the Census serves as the primary indicator for how federal funds are appropriated to state and municipal governments. Beyond this, however, the Census also provides extremely useful demographic data that helps all Americans understand the distribution of people throughout the country.

In the past several Censuses, there has been a movement to expand this survey’s understanding of diversity. Despite this push, LGBTQ people are still not counted by our government, and the Columbia Queer Alliance is working with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to show the Census Bureau that this is wrong. By not counting LGBTQ people, the Census denies America a genuine reflection of its composition, and perpetuates the government’s refusal to legitimate our vibrant social group.

Will you help us show the Census Bureau that they were wrong to not include a question about sexual/gender identity, fill out this sticker, and place it on the back of your census envelope? With your help, we will flood Washington with a demand to count EVERYONE.

Thank you for your attention, and please feel free to reach out to the Queer Alliance with any questions, comments, or concerns ([email protected]).




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  1. Anon.

    Last time I checked gay/bi/whatever wasn't a race.

    • READ  

      "expand this survey’s understanding of diversity."

      • Anonymous

        the census doesn't give a fuck about diversity unless it helps the government tax the right people or allocate the right funds. There are private polling companies which can be hired to figure out issues of diversity.

        ALSO, shouldn't the goal be to treat everyone equally?

        And what the fuck is a straight ally, and how the hell does that affect "diversity"? Where is the box for people who don't care for alternative lifestyles? Shouldn't they be counted? Isn't that a part of "diversity"?

    • Last time I checked...  

      sex and age aren't races either. Assuming that the Census is only to determine race is just ridiculous.

      The point is that minorities need to be able to make themselves visible, so that politicians don't say stuff along the lines of "there are no gay people in my constituency" (which a number of state senators representing areas in Brooklyn, Queens, etc. said when questioned about their vote against same-sex marriage).

      • Anonymous

        then you can protest their ignorance by hiring a private polling company or collect signatures from the LGBT community. Or, alternatively, vote against ignorant people like that.

        Why should the federal government waste money so that a few ignorant politicians are proven wrong? I guarantee the data won't change their mind. Their issue is rooted in dogmatic religious/cultural beliefs, and is already actively denying the sway of reason.

  2. Anonymous

    ATTN: queers, pay for your own polling if you want demographic data such as that. If the federal government doesn't need to know gender status for taxation/allocation purposes, then lets not waste money figuring it out.

    Fuck you,

    • ATTN: homophobes  

      The Census is NOT only for "taxation/allocation purposes" (last time I checked there was no separate tax or voting allocation on specific ethnic groups...). Making the presence of minorities known is important when trying to fight discrimination.

      This is DEFINITELY the wrong school for close-minded people like you.

      • Anonymous

        i'm not close-minded. I am actually pretty liberal and have *voted* for gay rights initiatives. I'm sorry that anyone who gets in the way of your agenda has to be slandered. I want equal rights for everyone, but this sticker is just a waste of money.

        I don't think those who are discriminatory against people with alternative lifestyles are going to look at CENSUS results and then suddenly change their whole world view. That's a bit optimistic.

        I quite enjoy this school thank you very much.

  3. anon  

    isn't the assumption that LGBTQ people are normal humans a GOOD thing?

    • anon  

      to clarify, my point is, why are they demanding that they be differentiated?

      • differentiate  

        Because homophobic parts of society forceably differentiates and discriminates against the gay community? And invisibility does nothing for furthering civil rights but rather continues injustice?

        Also, wow, I like how you think being differentiated on the Census implies that you're somehow abnormal. (Your wording, not mine.)

        • wtf  

          The commenter did not say abnormal--those were your words. Normal here connotes convention, to be apart from the norm, or to not be considered a normal person by the census does not mean that they necessarily consider you abnormal. Abnormality is an extreme category usually typified by psychological diseases. Your sophistry is tiring and sophomoric.
          There is nothing wrong with the person's comment above. S/he posed a legitimate question even if you disagree with the presumed conclusion. I personally am all for gay rights and if the LGBTQ community feels that the census denied their identity than they should protest and there is no real valid argument one can make to refute their claims. If one is not part of this community then they cannot know what it feels like to be left out. And it may seem inconsequential to someone uninvolved. Those who feel slighted or who stand firm with the LGBTQ community should not attack others who do not understand their position. It is petty, pointless, and just plain aggravating. Explain it civilly and move on dammit.

        • anon  

          Not being included on the census ballot does not cause "invisibility." Homophobia is a genuine problem, but it's a battle that needs to be fought elsewhere. Nobody is offending to LGBTQ pride by excluding it from the census ballot, in the same way nobody is offending Judaism/Christianity/Islam/Buddhism/Hinduism/Mormonism/Shintoism/etc. by excluding religion from the ballot.

          The census ballot is designed for a purely political and economic environment in the Western sense, meaning it is scientific in attitude. Hence, it tries to stick as much as possible to attributes which are beyond the resident's control (race, age). The government is neither interested in nor has use for the subjective forms of lifestyle (sexual preference, religion) selected by its residents.

    • Anonymous  

      Yeah, I took that the census doesn't count this statistic as a positive thing and was put off by the stickers. But maybe that's too optimistic a view of the census creators' intentions?

  4. Be careful what you wish for...  

    \perpetuates the government’s refusal to legitimate our vibrant social group\

    Censuses have always been suspect to underemphasize certain minority groups, as these groups often do not know about/don't have access to/don't care about the census. The percentage of individuals of European ancestry of a middle-age bracket in the country is probably a bit inflated.

    Alongside this phenomenon, now consider how many individuals in the US are in denial. If census results are slanted, conservatives could very well use these statistics to rationalize their own arguments against gay rights.

    We already know the percentage of lgtb Americans.

  5. gay dude

    What's the use of knowing how many gays there are?
    Age - for school, elderly homes, etc
    Race - bilingual accessibility?
    Gender - not sure, health services, select service enrollment?

    • usage  

      age - also, just for purely knowing what age group is a demographic percentage; it differs widely country by country. Are the 20-25 year olds the largest demographic? The 5-10? The 40-45? etc.

      race - more like figuring out "how badly has our systemic racism hurt people this decade and what can we do to try to fix that" by seeing if geographical concentrations of minorities are connected at all to bad health services, bad school systems, etc.

      sex - to see trends, I'm guessing. Although on a large scale, it probably won't be useful unless sex ratios have suddenly tipped in the past decade, I'm sure figuring out things like: are households sporting a trend of single parenthood and of which parent? What is the ratio of men:women who are attending college or are in group homes? Etc.

      sexual orientation - considering several gay policies are being heatedly debated on right now (gay marriage, DADT), having the GLBTQ community be visible by statistically showing their presence seems kind of important. If x% of the entire population identifies as GLBTQ, that information can be used to fight for civil rights (or to convince government that'd it be in their best interest to work with the GLBTQ community).

    • Anonymous  

      The official explanations for why they ask the questions:

      I find it amusing that for the explanation for race, it says it's been on the census since 1790, without mentioning the whole 3/5ths clause thing.

  6. Anonymous  

    Actually, I don't think it costs anything to print this extra polling section on the already existing ballots. No money would in fact be wasted.

  7. Anonymous  

    Well if you're going to include sexual preference, then it could be argued that other things like religious views should be included too. I think that also contributes to the "diversity" of a population. And much as I hate to say it, I agree with the person above who brought up people who are against alternative lifestyles. While I would identify myself as a "straight ally" (although I like to think I would never actually word it like that), I do think it's unfair to limit the options on a census question to people who are/support gays. It'd be really nice if there were no people who are anti-gay, but if you're going to make it a census question, they have to have a voice as well.

    • somewhat agreed  

      I think religious views are now gathered by a yearly information-gathering agency. I'm just not sure if even that agency asks the question about sexuality. Does anyone know?

      I like the idea of the sticker. I just wish, as you said, they hadn't put "ally" after "straight"; it's like putting "white ally" on the question about race or "male ally" on the question about sex. Cool in principle, but not the point of info-gathering.

  8. sad

    that the cqa is narrow minded enough to box people off like that.

    • It  

      looks like CQA is using stickers that are made by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. I doubt that CQA actually printed these stickers by themselves, especially given the Task Force logo on the front.

      Anyway, this seems like a great conversation starter. I'm glad that CQA helped distribute these stickers.

  9. LOL  

    "Alternative lifestyle" is such an awful term.

    Also, one of my confirmation words is "left-wing." wut.

  10. proud lesbian

    Something about the sticker didn't seem right to me.

    I've read the arguments supporting the protest, but I still don't believe sexual orientation has a place on the census in its current form. I definitely agree about the benefits of visibility for the LGBT community, but the inclusion of such a question would strike me as a bit strange and out of place. Why just this segment of society? There are other minority groups also fighting for equality and representation. Why not ask about religious beliefs? Religious minority groups lack visibility as well. Or even ability/disability? It would seem helpful to know the percentage of people who are physically disadvantaged so that they can better be accommodated.

    Besides the strange sense of divisiveness such an out-of-place question could lead to, the benefits seem uncertain. Those in same-sex partnerships are already represented with the relationship question, so adding the orientation question will not really add more information concerning the same-sex marriage debate. What benefit will really be gained by making people check a box? If anything, I feel like it will lead to under-representation of the queer community. Because censuses are filled out by families, who are often clueless about their children's sexual orientation, a huge number of LGBT teens and young adults will be overlooked. Along with that, the uneasiness many would feel about checking a box (a year or two ago, even though I was somewhat out, I would have never been able to look at it spelled out in black and white) would leave many more uncounted.

  11. Anonymous  

    Given the choice of Man or Woman, which would you rather have sex with? Maybe that question isn't excluded because we are pretending there are no gay people as a country, perhaps it just isn't an appropriate nor necessary question. What about asexuals or clergy who have taken vows of celibacy. No one is being oppressed or overlooked. There are a thousand questions we could have on the census. Do you smoke? Are you overweight? None of your business... Keep in mind this is question people are legally bound to answer, not just a poll. Are you saying by law people should identify their sexual preference. Maybe they should be prosecuted if they come out of the closet 1 year after they hand in their census. I don't understand how anyone can be outraged that they don't ask people about their sex lives.

  12. straight girl  

    no offense but i wouldn't want to put my sexuality down on paper.

    first of all, the census asks those questions because statistically that is what the government believes it needs to assess how to distribute funds to each county.

    and personally, i have an issue as a hispanic woman because i don't have a race so my family was confused on how to answer that question. i wanted to put down human race but that's another topic.

    i think a question about sexuality would really offend some people. I'm pretty sure my parents would be offend. It's really no one's business what your sexuality is especially not the government.

    and if the question is going to be included, there should be an option for the people who are homophobic to be fair because on this questionnaire that isn't even an option. I love my gay friends but there are still plenty of people who don't want anything to do with the GLBTQ community.

  13. ?

    2 questions - 1) Why does it matter statistically? (The purpose of the Census is to generate useful statistics about the population) and 2) Why would you want to disclose this to the government?

  14. Anonymous  

    The "long form" version of the census asks questions about sexual orientation.

  15. alumna

    LOL. queering: yr doin it wrong.

  16. Anonymous

    The census costs $14bn, not $400bn

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