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:


A Writer’s Snow Day

Making the Most of Nature’s Gift of Time

It’s the dream of every writer with the day job of teaching: a snow day, a precious gift given too rarely during the school year that allows us to shut out the seemingly endless demands of the real world and dedicate our entire focus to our craft. It’s a day to revive our senses, renew our inspiration and fully immerse ourselves in our narrative, thanks to this offering Mother Nature has so generously provided us.

Unfortunately, like most people who can enjoy the benefit of cancelled plans and a day home in pajamas, I usually find myself lamenting at the end of the day that I hadn’t accomplished nearly as much as I’d set out to. So today, the first snow day of the school year, I’ve decided to investigate why that is by chronicling each event of this blissful, unscheduled writing day to figure out why I’m not more prolific when all I have is time.

5:30 am:  Answer robo-call that school is closed. (Should jump out of bed right now, make coffee and get right down to writing!)

8:30 am:  Wake up after falling back to sleep plotting out the opening scene in head

9:00 am:  Sit down at computer. Forgot what I plotted out in head before falling back to sleep—something about two women separated in a snow storm.

9:30 am:  Staring out window at cascading snowflakes imagining giving Best Screenplay Oscar acceptance speech after novel is made into movie

10:15 am:  Writer’s block. Wander around house; realize how infrequently I dust

writer giving up.jpg
Why bother?

10:30 am:  Wake up cat with kisses

10:31 am:  Apply Neosporin to scratches on face after waking up cat with kisses

10:45 am:  Back to writing

10:46 am:  Check Facebook to make sure I’m not missing anyone’s birthday

10:47 am:  Follow link in newsfeed about 37 Actors Rumored to be Gay; internet too slow; abort article

11: 15 am:  Finish scrolling newsfeed. Log off

11:16 am:  Try to write opening scene again. Remember I logged off Facebook before wishing friends happy birthday. Log on again. Wait to see if they “like” birthday posts.

11:30 am:  Back to opening scene. Boy, that snow’s really coming down. That’s way more than the 1″-3” they predicted last night. These damn weather people. You can never believe a word they say.

The alleged 1″-3″ of forecasted snow. I’m expecting to see a dog sled team whiz by any second.

11:45 am:  Coffee gone. Need to make another cup. Let me throw in a load of laundry as long as I’m up.

12:00 pm:  Back to opening scene. (“It was a cold and snowy afternoon. Eliza couldn’t bear the thought of Clara all alone on that lonely, dangerous cattle ranch.”)  Awesome. I’m well on my way.

12:15 pm:  Lunchtime. Didn’t make a milk and bread run yesterday. The forecast was only for 1″-3” of snow.

12:30 pm:  Still foraging the kitchen for something to spread peanut butter on. I should go grocery shopping more often.

1:00 pm:  Baking muffins I found in cabinet. Expiration dates are just suggestions.

Chocolate chip muffins. Lunch of champions.

1:30 pm:  Taking mental break from writing. Surf channels till I find Forensic Files. Fall asleep right after woman’s body is discovered by hiker in shallow ravine.

3:00 pm:  Refreshed from nap. Back to my opening scene. (Why is Clara all alone on that cattle ranch? Why is it dangerous? How did Eliza meet Clara? Are they romantically involved yet or does Eliza adore her from afar?)

3:15 pm:  Quick check of Facebook while deciding why Clara’s cattle ranch is dangerous. Scroll faster to avoid #Friendsday videos. Oh, a cat video!

3:45 pm:  Shit. Forgot laundry in machine.

4:15 pm:  Back to opening scene. Why the hell did I set this story on a mid-western cattle ranch in the late 1800s? I’ve never even been to the mid-west. Or a cattle ranch. Or the 1800s.

4:30 pm:  “It was a cold and snowy afternoon. Liz couldn’t bear the thought of Claire all alone at that lonely, dangerous wine bar. How she’d wished she’d put snow tires on her car earlier in the season.”

5:00 pm:  Done for the day! 36 words. Not bad. Could’ve been more. Hey, writing is an art, a delicate process that can’t be forced. It’s only 36 words, but they’re 36 quality words. Save Word file. Do mock end-zone victory dance. Celebrate by opening bottle of wine.

Jean Copeland is the author of The Revelation of Beatrice Darby, and The Second Wave, coming Oct. 17, 2016 from Bold Strokes Books.