Censoring the census: Questions on LGBTQ+ status should be in the 2020 census


Marchers in the 2013 Twin Cities Pride parade carry rainbow flags as spectators watch along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Emily Weaver

6On March 29, the Census bureau gave reports to Congress on proposed 2020 survey questions. For the first time in the history, the survey – which serves to gather national data such as age, race, marital status, and more –  included questions on gender and sexual orientation. However, in a surprising (or maybe not) turn of events, the later-released version excluded questions that would have directly benefited the LGBTQ+ community.

Though LGBTQ+ Americans will still participate in the census, it is a complete injustice that they are unable to portray themselves accurately. The inclusion of questions on gender and sexual orientation would have been seen as a step by the government to help normalize queer lives, a step that would have been especially meaningful given the distance that has been put between queer Americans and the current administration. Even though President Donald J. Trump once said to “ask the gays” what they thought about him, both recent and past actions taken by Trump and his administration suggest starkly anti-LGBTQ+ views. Trump has voiced his support for the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), a rule that would allow individuals to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community based on religious beliefs. He has also stated his opposition to both marriage equality and former president Barack Obama’s guidelines on allowing transgender students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

Though the census bureau claimed that these questions should not have been included on the final release of the document, and attributed their inclusion to a clerical error, the lack of questions regarding sexual orientation and gender shine light on a blatant issue within national data gathering. Gathering data can lead to reallocation of resources, or show discrepancies in how national issues affect populations. By excluding questions for LGBTQ+ Americans, the census bureau risks missing out on the opportunity to expose injustice within a community of people – commonly cited studies show that LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to be homeless, face greater risk of depression and suicide, and transgender women of color are more likely to be murdered as an act of hate crime than any other group. Though these statistics were gathered by polling small populations and gathering already reported data, adding questions to the US census would give more holistic and conclusive data regarding LGBTQ+ populations.

As explained by the Advocate, the cancellation of questions regarding gender and sexual orientation is “an attempt to further erase and diminish the contributions of America’s thriving LGBT+ communities.” In order to highlight injustice towards queer Americans, we as citizens can’t allow our government to excluding anyone’s identity from our survey system.