Friday, March 26, 2010

Absence on the Census

My census came a few weeks ago, and I was so excited to fill it out. There are so many sub-sects of the population that I was eager to proudly declare membership in, letting the Powers That Count know the numbers of these groups had grown by at least a factor of +1.

I was quite disheartened to rip open my envelope, giddy like a kid at his birthday, and find that the great Census Takers only wanted my name, age, and relationship to the homeowner. They were fine with asking my ethnicity, but they didn't really care if I was gay, Catholic, employed, or whether I'd been convicted of a crime. To me, this census felt more like a 'we don't want to know the truth' sort of census.

I would think a census would involve asking the questions we would all like to know. How many people identify as gay/straight/bisexual/transgender in America? What better method is there to anonymously gather this information from nearly every individual residing within our country's borders? We could find out accurate numbers for the adherents of various religions, how many unemployed Americans are out there today, income deviations - are the rich really getting richer and poor getting poorer?

So many polling companies make their living from getting a supremely small sample of the population, asking them some questions, and making rulings about how the majority of the country lives their lives. And, sure, it might be a little Big Brother to ask so many questions, but wouldn't it be nice to have some numbers we could actually believe? Numbers that could be held against any scrutiny? I mean, gosh, there are statistics out there claiming that less than 2% of the population is gay, others that say a little over 10%, and even higher numbers reaching at the 20% mark. That 18% disparity is unbelievable.

Unbelievable because it's just not true. Some number out there is the truth. And these true numbers can be used to lobby government officials to take notice of your minority. If your minority group (religious, orientation, ethnic, language, etc.) is growing, shouldn't your representation in legislation and government reflect that? Would Don't Ask Don't Tell meet so much opposition if we knew for a near fact that we weren't talking about 2% of the population - as certain religious lobbyists would have us believe - but 8%, 12%, maybe even 17% of all people. That's millions of Americans being denied their rights!

There's nothing that can really be done this go around, but there's nothing to stop the American Government from asking these questions in a different format! Would you be up for adding your name to a respective minority category? Do you feel it's important or unimportant to know these numbers? Send your thoughts to IncitingARiotPodcast@gmail.com or Tweet @IncitingARiot!

And, just so you know, I wrote that I was the 'unmarried partner' of my partner on the census sheet. Doubt it'll matter, but it was my own little subversive addition.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

5 comments:

  1. There is a sticker you can place on the envelope of your census about GLBT. I cannot remember the website it's from, but I'm sure if you google it, it will come up. A bunch of my friends have placed on theirs to give the legislators a message about including such a question on the census.

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  2. One, the census is not anonymous. Your name is on the form. Two, why would anyone willingly put themselves on a 'List' that could then be turned against that person.

    I would agree if I didn't have to put my name on it, other than that it is far too personal and non of anyone elses business. I may be proud of who and what I am, but I am not willing to flaunt it, or paint a giant bulls-eye on my forehead for any powerful group to single me out and make my life hell.

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  3. That's exactly what I thought!!
    I was like, wow!! They are scared to know the truth!!

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  4. That's not what they are scared of. This is just one more thing that we have the Radical Right to thank for. They have so demonized the census that I think the fear was that if they asked too many questions then people would refuse to participate at all. Personally I have reached a point where I am pretty much sick and tired of these people. If they want to live in some Randian fantasy land, why don't the leave and start their own country. Leave those of us who believe in social justice and social safety nets to get back to the business of trying to create a country worth living in.

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  5. Willow: If I'm correct about your reference, the sticker is from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. www.queerthecensus.org Don't know if the stickers are still available, but I got one and used it...

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