Queer the Census: LGBTQ+ Visibility in Census 2020

The LGBTQ+ Community Counts During Pride. Let’s Make Sure We Count All Year-Round By Participating in the 2020 Census

Adán Chávez is the Deputy Director of National Census Program at NALEO Educational Fund
Adán Chávez is the Deputy Director of the National Census Program at NALEO Educational Fund.

I was raised in California’s Inland Empire: home to a growing and thriving Latino community. Growing up the proud son of Mexican immigrants and grandson of a Bracero, coming out as a queer Latino added a layer of difficulty in accessing the same opportunities that were already made challenging for my community. These experiences shaped a mindset I formed early in life to make it my responsibility to help empower others, so that everyone — regardless of what they look like, what language they speak, where they came from, or who they love, are seen, heard, and represented.

This worldview also guided my professional journey, ultimately bringing me to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund — the nation’s leading non-profit, non-partisan organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service. Serving as the Deputy Director of the organization’s National Census Program and playing a pivotal role in supporting the implementation of its national Get Out the Count campaign, ¡Hágase Contar!, my work is a part of a broad effort to see a full and accurate count of Latinos in the 2020 Census.

Historically, the Latino community has been under-counted in the census, a reality that includes LGBTQ+ Latinos, as well. At NALEO Educational Fund, when we say that we want to ensure everyone in our community is counted, we mean all Latinos. Our community is racially, ethnically, and ideologically diverse; culturally prolific; and wonderfully complex. We also have different sexual orientations and gender identities, a dimension to our community that is as intrinsic to our culture as anything else. Sea lo que sea, también son familia y sus luchas también son nuestras.

For the thousands of LGBTQ+ Latinos in the country, being counted in the 2020 Census is an opportunity for us to ensure we receive a fair share of political representation and resources for our communities. Census data help determine the distribution of over $1.5 trillion in federal funding. With over 20% of all LGBTQ+ families benefitting from either the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid — just two of the more than 300 programs with funding based on census data, making sure we are seen and represented through the census is as critical as ever.

In this census, for the first time, residents can identify their household relationships as “same-sex husband, wife, or spouse” or “same-sex unmarried partner.” And while there is only a binary choice for sex, the Census Bureau supports self-identification and will never check responses against licenses, birth certificates, or any kind of document. In fact, all of your data is private and confidential. With that in mind, it is important to note that if residents leave the question about sex blank, the Census Bureau will “impute” a response. In other words, they will use a statistical formula to calculate a “likely” response to the skipped question.

Even with this progress, we know these questions will not give us a full and comprehensive snapshot of the LGBTQ+ community. However, the National LGBTQ Task Force and other LGBTQ+ advocates are continuing to advocate for sexual orientation and gender identity questions to be added to the census in the future to better-capture a picture of our vibrant community. This continued effort is vital, as data about LGBTQ+ people critically helps civil rights organizations and advocates fight for positive change.

The census is personal for me, especially as someone who grew up hiding an integral part of who I am. Making sure I am counted as an openly queer person is both good for my community and a bold declaration that I live here, I work here, and I will be counted here. Setting this example for many other LGBTQ+ people who still struggle with their identity is paramount to creating a welcoming space for all of us to be who we are without fear or reservation. Making sure we are counted in the census is in itself an act of resistance and another step in our community’s collective efforts to “coming out” as history progresses. And by no longer having our household relationships made invisible by the census, we are seizing a real power in coming out through the census by standing up, being seen, and being counted.

Because there is so much at stake for LGBTQ+ Latinos in the 2020 Census, NALEO Educational Fund is joining forces with The National LGBTQ Task Force for an LGBTQ Census Week of Action. Join us June 22 — June 26, to help increase LGBTQ+ Latino participation in the 2020 Census. Here is what you can do:

  • Monday, June 22 — Census 101 + Why Census Matter to LGBTQ+ People

Share how and why you will #QueerTheCensus with a sign and a selfie.

Share your story about your experience completing the census.

Share a fact about your state from the Task Force’s State Census Factsheets here.

Write a Haiku about the possibilities for you and your community when we have a full and accurate count.

Celebrate the end of Pride Month by dancing — “I dance because I count!”

It is essential to know that the 2020 Census is still continuing amid COVID-19, with October 31, 2020, being the last day to respond! And as house visits for Nonresponse Follow Up (NRFU) being on August 11, responding to the census by July 31 will prevent a knock on your door amid the pandemic. In fact, public health emergencies like the COVID-19 are precisely why the government needs accurate census data. And luckily, you can respond on your own — by phone, online, or by mail.

Share all of your selfies, stories, facts, Haikus, dance videos, and anything else on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and tag the Task Force (@thetaskforce) and NALEO Educational Fund (@NALEO), using the hashtags — #QTC, #BeYouBeCounted, #QueerTheCensus, and #HagaseContar. For more ideas on what you can do during the LGBTQ Census Week of Action and beyond, click here.

The ¡Hágase Contar! Census 2020 campaign is a national effort developed and led by NALEO Educational Fund. The ¡Hazme Contar! campaign is a sub-campaign focused on achieving a full count of Latino children under five. Both campaigns will focus on regions with significant hard-to-Count (HTC) Latino communities and significant undercounts of Latino children.

Adán Chávez is the Deputy Director of the National Census Program at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. Follow Adán on Twitter at @adanjchavez.

The nation’s leading nonpartisan organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.

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