On census, surveys


This week, you’ll note that PGN has, for the first time in its 34-year history, given ad space above its flag. Though some will certainly say we’ve sold our soul (ha! That means we have one!), it’s for a good cause: the U.S. Census.

This year, for the first time, the census is counting same-sex couples who live together. (And not reclassifying them, as happened in the 2000 census.) In the 2010 census, individuals who live together can indicate how they are related to each other — and can mark “Husband or wife” or “unmarried partner.”

And the Census Bureau is making a point of reaching out to the LGBT community to get them to buy in, and be counted.

With approximately $400 billion in government funds allocated based on census data, as well as Congressional districts, the census matters. It’s important for the LGBT community to be included in the data.

That’s not to say the effort is not without possible flaws — and critics.

For one, the census is only counting same-sex couples, not individuals. Secondly, transgender individuals have only the option of responding “male” or “female” for their sex. There are pros and cons to these.

For many, identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is highly personal and they are loath to disclose this to some government agency. Or they just don’t see why anyone else needs to know.

However, information disclosed to the Census Bureau, by law, cannot be shared with anyone, including other federal agencies and law-enforcement officials.

Another criticism of counting only same-sex couples is that it sends the message that you only count as a gay person if you live with someone.

While it may take another 10 years to refine the census questionnaire to extract more subtle data about the LGBT community, the community will have to work with what’s on the table now. It’s 10 questions and should take about 10 minutes. Forms will be mailed out this month, and Census Day is April 1.

If you’d like to give the Census Bureau some feedback on counting all sexual minorities, the Philadelphia LGBT Complete Count Committee has created pink stickers to affix to the census envelope (putting them on the form itself would invalidate it). They are available at various Gayborhood locations; get more information at www.icountphilly.com.

Here at PGN, we are conducting a survey of our own (pages 21-22 or at www.epgn.com) to check in with our readers. We will use the data to assess what is important to you, what you read and how we are doing. As a community newspaper, we want to make sure we are meeting the needs of our community. And if we aren’t, we want to fix it.