In March 2010, the US Census will conduct its dicennial survey of the who’s, what’s, and where’s of the American population. For those of us who are gay, lesbian, trans, or any orientation not strictly heterosexual, the survey always has been a bit of a conundrum: while some of us would like to define our partners as our spouses, the census survey, as a policy, will not. In fact, according to this WSJ article, just two surveys ago in 1990, when an individual classified that the same sex “roommate” s/he was living with as a spouse, the census taker would non-surgically edit the roommate’s sex to reflect that s/he was the anatomical opposite of the census taker. The 2000 version of the census gave gay couples the “option” to classify their relationship, whether it was young and uncertain or mature and committed, as an unmarried partnership. This was supposedly the more enlightened approach, yet there was still data scrubbing: for those LGBT couples who insisted that they were married and checked the appropriate box, homophobic legal definitions be damned, they were nonetheless clumped into the “unmarried partners” category.
The 2010 survey will continue the 2000 recoding policy, but in 2011, for the first time, the federal agency will release the raw, unedited state-by-state data. LGBT advocates hope that the raw data will more accurately reflect the number of LGBT couples who define their commitment as something more than an unmarried partnership. And, on a more macro level, I’d say that we hope to de-heterosexualize definitions of relationships and force the US to finally recognize that yes, it’s gayer than it would like to think, or project.
TONIGHT at 6:30 (late notice, but I ), the LA Gay and Lesbian Center will host a volunteer recruitment/teaching session for those who want to help educate the LGBT community about the census and how it will affect them and the Family. Speakers will include a noted LGBT demographer and a representative from the Census Bureau. Other opportunities will likely come again between now and March. In the meantime, check out the FAQ from the national census advocacy group, Our Families Count.