You may not count us, but you can count on us fighting back.
That’s the message the LGBTQ community is sending the Trump administration, after the U.S. Census Bureau revealed this week that questions related to sexuality or gender identity will not be included in the 2020 U.S. Census or the more detailed American Community Survey.
The move caused LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD to declare that the Trump administration is “erasing the LGBTQ community from the USA.” The feeling of erasure has resonated with the community, leading queer people to mobilize around the hashtag #CantEraseUs.
An earlier draft of questions planned for the 2020 U.S. Census and American Community Survey, simply dated “March 2017,” included “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in its appendix, indicating there might be LGBTQ-focused questions for the first time ever. It would be a form of inclusion that advocates and some federal agencies, like the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have long pushed for.
But no questions on sexuality or gender identity appeared in the actual survey draft, leading many to suspect that the questions would be added later.
Ultimately, the questions were never added, and the appendix items were removed in the finalized version delivered to Congress on Tuesday.
“The Subjects Planned for the 2020 U.S. Census and American Community Survey report released today inadvertently listed sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed topic in the appendix,” U.S. Census Bureau director John Thompson said in a statement. “The report has been corrected.”
Other identity-based questions covering race, sex (only male or female, referring to sex assigned at birth), and ethnicity, however, will appear in the 2020 U.S. Census.
The announcement comes just a week after the the Trump administration proposed to eliminate questions about LGBTQ elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants.
“Caring about our LGBT elders means making sure they have access to publicly funded senior services, which can be literally life-saving,” Michael Adams, CEO of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), said in a statement. “Now, it appears that the Trump administration wants to make believe LGBT older people don’t exist, by erasing them from this critically important survey.”
On social media, members of the LGBTQ community and allies have joined together in virtual protest, speaking out about the dangers of not counting queer people in national surveys.
“As an LGBT individual, I am livid that Trump will erase me and my peers from the Census,” one Twitter user wrote with the #CantEraseUs hashtag. “I will not go quietly into oppression.”
Data may be boring, but it matters
The U.S. Census may be a stale survey many loathe participating in, but it actually has immense importance for marginalized groups.
Data helps put hard facts behind the discrimination and bias facing those most at risk. Data can also help illuminate where federal funding needs to be allocated and legislation needs to be introduced to improve the lives of marginalized citizens.
Right now, the clarity of data doesn’t exist — at least on a federal level — to help improve the lives of the LGBTQ community.
U.S. Census data has the potential to help show how many LGBTQ people are unemployed, live in poverty, and use federal programs to survive. Independent surveys conducted by LGBTQ advocacy organizations have found that LGBTQ people depend heavily on federal services, faced with high rates of homelessness, low rates of employment, and income inequality.
Data is how we see the long term, life-altering impacts of discrimination and hate. And those facts can’t be erased.
Yes, there are things you can do to help — really
LGBTQ advocacy organizations are encouraging LGBTQ people and allies to call their representatives to voice their opposition to the erasure. Tell your rep why U.S. Census data is important, and why LGBTQ people deserve to be counted.
But, in lieu of U.S. Census data, many organizations have been working to collect information of the lives and needs of LGBTQ people for years. Consider supporting their efforts, and keeping up with their data:
Williams Institute, a championed UCLA think tank facilitating independent and wide-reaching research on LGBTQ identities
National Center for Transgender Equality, a social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people
SAGE, collecting data and supporting the needs of LGBTQ elders
GLSEN, a national education organization collecting data on LGBTQ students and school climate
Anti-Violence Project, collecting data on the LGBTQ community around hate violence, sexual violence, intimate-partner violence and systemic violence.