March 31, 2010
A queer way to Queer the Census
Posted by: Chris
Though I wouldn't put it anywhere near the top of the Gay Agenda, the movement to "Queer the Census" to make sure single gay folks are counted makes good sense. After all, the Census is designed to get an accurate count of the demographic sweep of this great nation, and this year marks the first time that gay couples are being permitted to mark themselves as "married."
Even though these same-sex do not specfically have a "gay" box to check, the fact that they mark themselves as having the same gender will make that clear for them. Gay couples who are unmarried but cohabitating are also indirectly counted the same way -- by marking their gender as the same and indicating they are unmarried partners. But there's no way for gay and bisexual Americans to be counted as part of the survey.
Enter the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, which in somewhat typical fashion takes a good idea and decreases its appeal and effectiveness. First of all, they chose to call their effort "Queering the Census," choosing a word that many gay folk would never use to describe themselves.
Second, rather than ask that the Census ask a question about sexual orientation that determines whether each person is straight, bisexual or gay, the Task Force opted to give another option: "lesbian." Maybe this was just the way they're marketing their queer effort, but wouldn't this make more sense:
- Lesbian or Gay
I also wonder where exactly the "gender identity" question would fit in -- including it as a third option after male and female would be offensive to many -- though not all -- transgender Americans. But it doesn't fit with a question about sexual orientation either, since gender identity is an entirely different concept -- something the good folks at the Task Force regularly forget in lumping us together as "LGBT persons."
Perhaps all this could be worked out by the bureaucrats at the Census Bureau, but it seems to me a pretty queer way to ask that you be taken seriously if you haven't thought through such basic questions. The closest the Task Force comes to offering an answer is to offer an apology that, wait for it, "queer" isn't being pushed as a choice:
With the huge bureaucracy that is the federal government, progress comes one small step at a time. The language on our stickers was very specifically chosen because it has been tested in other survey settings and has accurately collected data. This is the exact language we are advocating as part of the Census (minus "straight ally"). Some of our members don't like it and are writing in Queer on their stickers! It's a write-in on a write-in campaign. We encourage everyone to self-report in a manner that feels best for them. This is the case with all Census questions; it's about how you choose to identify yourself!
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