Video: Queering the Census – Answers to Common Questions & LGBTQ Concerns


NOTE FROM CHARLOTTE PRIDE: We are rolling out increased online events and programming, as well as news and commentary coverage for our local LGBTQ community in Charlotte and the Carolinas, as part of our new online programming during the COVID-19 crisis. Charlotte Pride is committed to ensuring our community has the most up-to-date and accurate information during this time, so we are sharing and documenting the stories and experiences of our community while also planning exciting and unique online engagement and education opportunities. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and bookmark our website’s news section to get the latest updates.


On Wednesday, April 1, Charlotte Pride held the first in a series of Facebook Live Broadcasts we’re planning each and every Wednesday through April.

April 1 also happened to be Census Day, the day the U.S. Census Bureau uses to determine its data collection. Don’t worry if you haven’t completed your Census yet — and if you have questions, keep reading or watch above. The April 1 date is simply used as a “moment in time;” where you’re living and who you’re living with — on April 1, 2020 — is how you’ll fill out your Census.

We know that there have been a lot of questions and concerns about the Census. For starters, it happens only once very ten years! Add that high level of infrequency in our daily lives to the almost unimaginable complexities of this huge national undertaking, it’s completely natural you might have some questions.

Questions and concerns have come particularly from the LGBTQ community along with a wide range of marginalized communities — people of color, immigrants, and others — who are also historically undercounted in the Census.

That’s why Charlotte Pride has been involved since late last year in local complete count efforts with the MeckCounts2020 Committee. Our board president Daniel Valdez (he/him) has served as co-chair of MeckCounts’ Community-Based Organizations Subcommittee, while our communications director Matt Comer (he/him) have served as a member on the subcommittee as well.

In the above livestream recorded on April 1 and the blog post below, we do a very quick and brief overview of the 2020 Census, what it is, what it means, and why it is important . Additionally, we delve into some of the questions and concerns we know are important for LGBTQ people.

Acknowledgments & Resources

This blog post and our 2020 Census education materials have been assisted by information from a variety of sources, including:

MeckCounts2020 — See their Frequently Asked Questions for more detailed information not covered here.

National LGBTQ Task Force — Their Guide to the 2020 Census is a highly detailed introduction to the once-in-a-decade count with awesome LGBTQ-specific questions and answers

And the all-important essential resource you need to actually take the census…
MY2020CENSUS.GOV
If you haven’t take the Census yet, click that link right there and do it now! It takes no more than 10 minutes and, for some, as quick as only 3 or 4 minutes!

The Basics

These are just some of the many questions people may have about the Census, and some of these questions can prompt even more questions. If you have questions while you’re reading, reference the above linked resources!

What is the U.S. Census?

The census is a count taken every 10 years of every person in the United States. It is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Do I have to participate in the U.S. Census?

Simply, yes. The government does require everyone who is living in the United States to participate in the Census. But it being required isn’t really why you should complete the Census.

So, you might be asking then, why? Why is the U.S. Census Important?

The U.S. Census does several things.

It helps government agencies determine where and how much of more than $675 billion per year in federal funds!

By completing the Census, you help to ensure your community receives its adequate share of federal funds for:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals,
  • Roads and other transportation infrastructure
  • Public works and other vital programs

In 2016 alone, North Carolina received over $23.7 billion dollars in federal spending guided by data derived from the 2010 Census! That’s A LOT of money! And your participation in the Census ensures your local community gets every single dime!

The Census is also used to help determine your political representation at the federal, state, and local level. The U.S. House of Representatives and our state legislature redraw their district lines based on where and how many people are living in a certain area.

What is asked on the Census?

Only a few short, easy questions:

  • How many people are living or staying at your home.
  • Whether the home is owned or rented.
  • The sex, age, name and race of each person in the home.
  • Whether a person in your home is of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.
  • The relationship of each person in your home.

YOU WILL NOT BE ASKED ABOUT YOUR CITIZENSHIP STATUS! The U.S. Census Bureau is prohibited by law from sharing any personal data or information with anyone whatsoever and that includes other government agencies. The Census is safe! And every person — regardless of their citizenship status — should complete the Census!

What is a “household”?

Your household counts you and anyone else living in your home. That could be you and your spouse or partner and your children. It could also mean you and your roommate or several roommates.

How do I participate in the U.S. Census?

For the first time, the U.S. Census is being conducted primarily online. Just go to my2020census.gov.

Some other useful information about participating:

  • If you received a piece of mail from the U.S. Census, inside it will be a 12-digit Census ID Code you can enter when you start the Census.
  • A Census ID code is NOT required to complete the Census online
  • The Census is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and several other languages
  • Everyone is encouraged to complete the Census online, but if for some reason you can’t do that, you can call 1-844-330-2020.

Is the information I provide safe and secure?

Your responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure, and protected by federal law. Your answers can only be used to produce statistics. They cannot be used against you by any government agency or court in any way—not by the FBI, not by the CIA, not by the DHS, and not by ICE.

When should I complete the Census?

You can complete the Census now! Go to my2020census.gov to complete the Census.

Answer your questions base on where you’re living and who is living with you as of April 1, 2020

What happens if I don’t complete the Census?

The U.S. Census is required by the U.S. Constitution. If a household has not responded by the end of April, a census taker — someone who is called a “census enumerator” — will visit the home to collect responses. These in-person visits will begin in May.

The Census & LGBTQ People

Now, let’s shift gears just a bit and talk about issues and questions you might have if you’re LGBTQ.

Does the Census count LGBTQ people?

Sorta? Kinda? The Census doesn’t ask about sexual orientation or gender identity. BUT for the first time ever it will specifically ask clarified questions regarding couples and the Census will, starting in 2020, count married or unmarried same-sex couples.

There is a lot of concern and some people are rightly upset that the Census isn’t counting all LGBTQ people. The National LGBTQ Task Force has been leading an effort for many years to get questions on sexual orientation added to the Census.

There is also major concern that the Census’ question on sex includes only Male or Female, and that is a significant concern and stressor for our transgender and gender nonconforming community.

Unfortunately, we are unable to force changes to the Census at this point, but our participation now helps us ensure that we are even more represented at the table in the 2030 Census preparation.

So, if you are trans or gender nonconforming, you might be wondering how you should answer the sex question…

As frustrating as it is, the answer is quite simply, answer it to your best ability and with the answer the best corresponds to your reality.

The U.S. Census Bureau in the past has said you should answer the question with what sex is listed on your birth certificate, but in other places the Census has said it is acceptable to self-identify on the Census.

No one is going to investigate or second-guess how you answer the sex question. The Census Bureau does not cross-check data it receives with any other agency. So, if, for example, other government documents you have identify you as male, but you identify as female, then feel free to answer the sex question as female. Or vice versa.

Can you just leave the sex question blank?

Good question!

What we’re hearing is that it is best that you answer all the questions.

There’s a very low chance that a Census enumerator — again, those are the folks who visit people’s homes or call them for follow-ups — will be following up with you if you have an incomplete Census, but there is still a chance they could do that. Just answer the question if you can and especially if you don’t want to have to deal with an enumerator asking you this question in person or over the phone.

Another concern for trans, GNC and queer people is how you list your name on the Census.

Technically, you should list your legal name. But feel free to answer the question with what you most identify with.

False answers on a Census form are technically illegal, but here’s the advice The Task Force gives us: “Essentially, the point of this law is to make sure that each household only submits one survey, which ensures that everyone is fairly and accurately counted. It is not intended to punish people who answer the questions in a way that better reflects who they are with regard to their name and sex.”

Have more questions about the Census? See the resources linked above! And, remember, take just a few minutes to complete the Census today!