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. 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!

Tranny to Texas and Back

Back from Creating Change in Dallas! The conference was pretty small this year, maybe 2500 people. There were less young people than last year, but other than that there was a good representation of the community. I am actually pretty satisfied with the Task Force’s work in creating an inclusive, intersectional community- a rarity to come from a national organization. They have been increasingly good about having lots of stuff for trans folk, both from an accessibility and an activity standpoint and this year they added multi-lingual events and interpreters to the slew of accessibility options, which is most excellent.

I was very surprised at the number of radically minded folks this year. Often there is a surplus of pro-marriage, HRC humping agenda pushers but as the years go on they are appearing less and less at Creating Change. I overheard several conversations about the faults of the marriage movement and even dialogue about the Task Force’s name. (full name Gay and Lesbian Task Force). Mark, from made an excellent post talking about the conference here. I actually don’t even recall very many cases of being called the wrong pronoun. It was a surprisingly safe space. In fact, for a trip to Texas, I made out surprisingly unscathed.  Short of some awkward conversations with taxi drivers about illegal aliens and what I am “activating” about as an activist, plus multiple run-ins with airport security, I made out ok. The city was surprisingly empty, and in many places reminded me of pre-2000s East Berlin -in a bad way. Guess I expected Texas to be immune from the recession. There were also a surprisingly large number of independent businesses on the outskirts of the city. Inside the city, aside from the art museums, it was more difficult to find much independent Dallas culture. I wasn’t able to visit with my sister, who lives in Denton, which was a downer and I had several health issues that made me miss a chunk of the conference. On the whole though, I got to do a lot of great stuff while I was there. Saw some wonderful o’l friends I don’t usually get to see, always good. And I did some great networking, which again is always good. I am feeling optimistic about the work to be done in the next year. This is a crucial time for a lot for trans stuff, and its important we keep working.

Also, make sure you are keeping up with ENDA and fighting the good fight!  We are coming down to the wire, March is almost here!

And now for some photos!

you knew there had to be a cowboy hat picture

[image: JAC smiling, wearing a cowboy hat]

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