2020 Census for Dummies: Yes, Lots of Us Will Still Be Invisible

I recently posted an article on my FB page from NBCnews.com about the “erasure” of LGBTQ Americans on the 2020 US Census.

The article was from 2017 so, naturally, I got some comments about it being old and/or misleading information. Turns out, it’s really not. Yes, the 2020 Census has an option for same sex married or unmarried partner regarding the person or people you share your household with, but that’s the extent of it. Times have changed dramatically for LGBTQ Americans over the last ten years, and the US Census should reflect that. For those thinking or even itching to ask, “Hey, you got your same-sex partner option. Why aren’t you satisfied,” here’s why:

The 2020 US Census will only count gay men and lesbians who live with someone. That’s it. The census will not tally single gay and lesbian Americans or those who have same-sex relationships with people they don’t live with. And the only gender options are male or female. So right there, our community’s numbers are misrepresented to the low side. This is a major problem.

Now let’s review the rest of the letters. The Census does NOT count the millions, yes, millions of Americans who identify as bi-sexual, trans, or any of the others who identify in the Q (queer) realm. As it has been with all of previous censuses, those citizens will again be erased from existence as far as federal statistics are concerned.

According to the Williams Institute, as of 2011, approximately 4,000,000 Americans identify as bi-sexual, and on the 2020 US Census, they will not be counted.

The same survey also revealed that over a half million Americans identified as trans. Mind you, this survey was done almost ten years ago. Surely, those numbers are higher in 2020, but the federal government won’t find that out, and it’s obvious that the current presidential administration does not care to.


So why is accurate representation important? The answers are frighteningly simple: government funding and demographic information for elected members of Congress.

  • LGBTQ people are disproportionately more likely to be victims of hate crimes, murder, suicide, anxiety and depression, and addiction. Accurate representation of LGBTQ Americans will help law enforcement and social service workers better serve our community by obtaining the financial resources from the feds they’ll need to do it.
  • Elected officials need to know the diverse make-up of the citizens they represent. That’s why the census asks questions like do you rent or own your home, what is your race and ethnicity, and educational levels. If millions of Americans are made invisible by insufficient census information, politicians cannot fairly legislate, especially when it comes to the numerous anti-LGBTQ bills, ordinances, and out-right bans our community is still fighting against.   

It’s too late for 2020, but by 2030, there absolutely must be a question concerning how an individual identifies, e.g. gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer. Without it elected officials will continue to under represent a substantial part of their constituency, over 5 million tax-paying Americans.

It’s time for the LGBTQ community to be fully and accurately included in the US Census, not only because we’re law-abiding, tax-paying Americans like everyone else, but also because as Americans we inherently deserve the same political, economic, and social opportunities straight-white America has enjoyed for centuries.

Jean Copeland is an author, activist, and feminist. View her author page: