Dear Census; Nunuh’yuh Beeswax
Before I got the census I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the “count the queers” argument that is being pumped up by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and HRC among others. If you aren’t familiar, though I’m sure you’ve at least heard of it, the general “Queer the Census” campaign is intended to alert the government that they need to count queers on the census. To do this the NGLTF and to do this you put a sticker (seen below) on your census envelope.
Oddly enough, the “Queer the Census” sticker does not list Queer as an identity option… the reason being the good o’l “one step at a time” statement. Its a fuckin’ bright pink sticker with the word GAY all over it. You really think that the word “queer” is gonna make it any more or less shocking to the bureaucracy? Some of your folks don’t like the word queer? Well, fuck some people don’t like the phrase “straight ally” and that is on there. And it’s not just queer. There are several identities missing in the sticker’s list, conveniently the more radical ones. One of my pet peeves is the overarching “TRANSGENDER” category, which dose serve a ton of purpose in many spaces, but not when you are trying to “accurately represent” communities. If one could argue that all lesbians share some commonality of being attracted to women in some way, you could not apply that argument to transfolk, either in identity, gender spectrum, or sexuality. In response to the un-inclusiveness of the the NGLTF sticker, more radical communities created the “REALLY Queer the Census” campaign that is, in addition to being political, quite amusing.
The pro-gay (it doesn’t seem queer to me) census count arguments include that we need to be “accurately counted” in order to correctly “reflect diversity” of the USA. Newsweek.com reported mixed stories of queers who have mixed feelings about being counted, mainly fearing the repercussions of what could happen if someone found out their census data. My initial reaction was “hell yeah, count me!” but then I started to think about it. If I was counted, who would know I was trans? Would it possibly come back to haunt me in my scheming for non-GID med records or keeping under the government radar? Would it somehow group me somewhere? Misrepresent me? The HRC assures us that census data is confidential, and punishable by jail time if you divulge information. But I’m not afraid of some renegade census worker, I’m afraid of the government that is housing the data. In 1942 the US government used census data to identify Japanese Americans, and we all know how that turned out. Who is to say that at some point it won’t be us put into camps?
Another statement of the NGLTF is that knowing a count of queers will help in allocating funding and resource to queer initiatives because people will know there are more of us… But what about the mass of people who don’t use the words in the white-western gay vernacular to describe themselves? There are loads of queers who don’t self identify as queers, either because of politics, practice, community, or language. Would they become even more invisible because they don’t use the language the census does? One good point that has been made is that adding queers to the census will squash the stereotype that all queers are white and wealthy. I donno how useful the info will be to the movement since the government probably won’t notice. That said, still the majority of the argument surrounds “head of household” identification issues for queer couples and marriage… surprise, surprise. I can’t help but think this just might be another arm of the queer gentrification movement in the interest of the money-Mos? Is this about “reflecting diversity” or gaining another pointless symbol of ‘equality’ by doing something cause everyone else does it? Are we really that more empowered if we get to check off a little box of our very own? Are we any more or less human by being labeled as one thing or another? On one hand, I guess it is nice to know who is who for historical purposes, but in the big picture why does race matter on the census? Why does sexuality or gender identity? Maybe what we need to be looking at isn’t whether or not queers are listed, but why groups are listed as they are in the first place and what system is being used to allocate resources. If it is based off of numbers is that the right way to do it? If there is a mix of races in a class room with more white kids than anything else, we still understand (or should understand) that all kids need and deserve the same level and quality of education regardless. We all need the same resources whether there is 40 of us or 40,000.
The spin being put out is that without the census, we queers “don’t exist.” Now I can’t speak for everyone, but I have been around for a while with or without the census. I need resources whether I am queer or not, and exist whether people know it or not. So, shouldn’t shit just be available to everyone? And I am ok with the government not knowing – or at least pretending not to know- that I’m a big o’l queer. I feel like it serves my purposes better for them not to know what I’m up to. They may need to know I am in Ohio to count population, they sure as hell need to know I’m poor so they will fund some resources for myself and my community, but they don’t need to know my race, they don’t need to know my identity. I get asked “What are you?” enough in my every day life, I don’t need a governmental classification. So fuck you, census. What I am is nunuh’yuh Beeswax! FACE!