In order to make all Black lives matter, we must ensure that queer and transgender Black people are seen, heard, and valued — both in our communities and in critical democratic processes like getting counted in the 2020 Census.
As you know, the stakes for the once-a-decade census are high, with $1.5 trillion dollars in annual federal funding, job opportunities, and political representation at all levels of government all on the line. Communities that are undercounted get underfunded, which is a huge problem when it comes to critical community needs like housing, schools, and hospitals.
But navigating the census as a queer and/or transgender person can definitely be tricky. While the census now includes same-sex partnerships and marriages, the Census Bureau declined to add a question explicitly asking about sexual orientation, and still requires respondents to identify as either male or female. (There’s also some confusing guidance about “biological sex” on the web questionnaire, but the Census Bureau has confirmed that transgender people should respond consistently with their lived gender identity, not the gender they were assigned at birth.)
Especially for many nonbinary folks, the gender question can be tough to answer. It’s painful to be pressured to pick a gender label that doesn’t fully reflect who you are. Yet if we’re going to receive the funding we deserve for programs like housing assistance, SNAP, HIV treatment/prevention, and Medicaid, we cannot afford to sit this out. Because of racial and gender-based discrimination, Black queer and transgender people experience poverty and homelessness at disproportionately high rates. And unless we’re fully counted in the census, public funding for these programs won’t meet our communities’ needs.
Your identity matters. And you deserve to be seen and counted exactly as you are. That’s why we’re working with movement partners to ensure that the 2030 Census is more inclusive and reflects the spectrum of all of our identities. But Black LGBTQ people can’t afford to wait another 10 years to be counted.
So this year, no matter your sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s crucial that you are included in the census. If you haven’t already submitted your census form, make sure you do so right away — and include everyone living with you. Once you’re done, be sure to check up on your friends and family and encourage them to complete the census as well.