Gay and Single? Bisexual? Transgender? The 2020 Census Still Erases You

Late last week, as NPR reported, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed in a congressional report that they will create a clear distinction on the 2020 Census between opposite-sex partners and same-sex partners.

But when it comes to LGBT inclusion on the Census and other federal surveys, that move appears to be the very least the governmental agency can do.

Although gaining a more accurate estimate of the number of same-sex couples will be an important milestone for both research and policymaking, the 2020 Census will still leave out most bisexual people, unpartnered gay men and lesbians, and transgender peopleor, in other words, the vast majority of the LGBT community.

Bittersweet, is how Laura Durso, an LGBT researcher and the vice president of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, described the Census Bureaus announcement.

Its a good thing that we are now going to improve the way in which we ask people about their relationships, and whether theyre married, and to whom theyre married, she told The Daily Beast. And then, of course, that comes with real disappointment that we are still lacking questions about sexual orientation and gender identity that would let us see the full spectrum of the LGBT community.

Questions about sexual orientation and gender identity made a brief appearance on a 2020 Census proposal last March, shortly after President Trump took office.

But, as the Associated Press reported, the Census Bureau quickly withdrew the questions, saying that the document had inadvertently listed them. The withdrawal dashed the hopes of Durso and other advocates, who wanted to see more accurate federal data collection so that researchers and public policy makers could better serve the LGBT community.

Indeed, as The Daily Beast and other outlets have previously noted, we still have no way of knowing exactly how many LGBT people are in the country, relying instead on estimates derived from various federal surveys.

As it stands, researchers believe that LGBT people comprise about four percent of the population, of which the slight majority are bisexual.

But as demographer Gary Gates previously told The Daily Beast, that estimate is still incomplete and it could one day prove to be close to 10 percentan unsubstantiated figure once proposed by mid-century sexologist Alfred Kinsey as younger generations come out of the closet.

The same-sex couple question on the 2020 Census, while important, will not even come close to clarifying this figure.

Questions about relationship status wont capture gender identity, thereby omitting transgender people. And the lack of a distinct question about sexual orientation will also obscure the existence of bisexual people, most of whom find committed relationships with opposite-sex partners, according to the Pew Research Center.

If youre a bisexual person and youre in a different-sex relationship, weve lost you entirely, Durso explained, referring to data collection through the 2020 Census, adding that even if youre in a same-sex couple, we dont know, for example, whether a woman identifies as lesbian, bisexual, queer, or something else entirely.

Knowing same-sex couples tells us something but it doesnt tell us everything about all of the range of sexual orientation identities, she noted.

Indeed, researchers like Durso want to know much more than the raw total of LGBT Americans, because the people represented by each of the letters in that acronym have different needs.

Bisexual people, for example, tend to have worse mental health outcomes than gay and lesbian peers due to the heightened stigma against bisexual identity. And as the past year and a half has proved, we still lack hard data on the numbers of people that targeted anti-transgender initiativeslike the Trump administrations rollback of Obama-era school guidance or the more recent transgender troop banwill affect.

Data from the 2020 Census will tell us how many people are in same-sex partnerships and marriagesa fraction of the LGBT community with an unknown denominatorand thats about it. Still, says Durso, thats no small feat given how spotty this data has been in the past.

Its a good step and a long time coming, she told The Daily Beast, noting that although the Census has asked about unmarried partners since 1990, the lack of a distinct same-sex couple option left more room for human error.

Because some percentage of people incorrectly mark their own gender, Durso explained, a lot of different-sex couples were incorrectly classified as same-sex couples and thats not good for anyone.

In fact, as Pew noted in 2015, the Census Bureau had to revise an initial estimate of 252,000 same-sex marriages down to the 170,000 range due to various inaccuracies.

Having a clearer estimate of that numberespecially in 2020, which will mark five years since the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriagewill prove vital to policy makers and advocates who work on LGBT-related issues like adoption, childrearing, and income inequality.

Indeed, Durso suspects that one of the main reasons the relationship question will appear on the 2020 Census is because of the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and the momentum that it put behind pre-existing efforts to pursue data collection on same-sex couples.

By contrast, Durso noted, with the sexual orientation and gender identity questions, because they really hadnt started too far down the road, political ideology was the thing that was able to stop them.

Political ideology, Durso added, also appears to be behind the decision, revealed last week, to re-introduce a citizenship question on the 2020 Census some 70 years after it was last asked.

But although she is dismayed by the inclusion of the citizenship question and the omission of questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, Durso hopes that the same-sex relationship checkbox will be a step toward a more inclusive Census.

It provides an entry point for people who might not understand what sexual orientation is or who the LGBTQ community is, she said. Even with these limitations, you can at least open the door to those kinds of conversations.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/gay-and-single-bisexual-transgender-the-2020-census-still-erases-you

I Grew Up Trans in Nepal, Then Became One of Its LGBTQ Leaders

More than 10 years ago a coalition of Nepali activists, including from the Blue Diamond Society (BDS), which is the countrys largest LGBTI rights organization, filed a case in the Supreme Court of Nepal demanding equal rights for LGBTI people.

I am a founding member of BDS and have been with the organization since its inception in 2001 when I joined as an office assistant, and am now its executive director.We started with only six volunteers and a rented room and have grown into one of Nepals largest nongovernmental organizations with 700 staff and over 40 offices around the country.

I have endured countless humiliations but have come out stronger, ready to take on the conservative forces of patriarchy and heteronormativity and fight for the dignity and safety of my community

I vividly recall being at the Supreme Court in 2007 during the hearing for the case and was caught off guard when the justice suddenly asked are there any LGBTI community members who can share their personal experiences? My heart racing, I immediately raised my hand without hesitation.

I shared my personal story of being stigmatized and discriminated every day merely for being a transgender woman: how men grope me on public transport; how thugs on the street whistle at me; and how government officials shamelessly ask me personal questions about my genitals and much more.

I have endured countless humiliations but have come out stronger, ready to take on the conservative forces of patriarchy and heteronormativity and fight for the dignity and safety of my community.

I outlined other issues facing LGBTI Nepalis such as lack of relationship recognition, lack of employment prospects, social derision, lack of protective laws, harassment from police and rampant bullying in schools.While I did not realize it at the time, my story apparently made a huge impact on the justice and contributed to a momentous verdict in favor of LGBTI rights and protections on December 21, 2007.

My fellow activists and I were elated that our country had finally chosen to recognize our humanity and rights.While Nepal never criminalized LGBTI people or persecuted us, like many other countries in the region and the world, for too long we had been an invisible and marginalized community. That was finally about to end.

My journey from a shy boy to a confident woman, transgender activist, and executive director of one of Nepals largest nongovernmental organizations was not easy and without challenges.

I remember my first day of primary school when my mom left me and a male friend and walked away and we began crying.The teachers brought us some toys.My friend selected an airplane and I chose a doll.In hindsight, I realize now that having feminine tendencies was something I always had.

Being feminine as a male-identified child was not easy.I was frequently bullied by boys and tended to socialize with girls.In high school, I remember being humiliated in front of my classmates when my teacher asked me to speak with a manly voice as I have a very soft voice. But I could not do so as this came naturally to me.

One day when I was a college student, I visited Ratna Park, a big park in central Kathmandu and a well-known cruising site for gay and transgender people.For the first time ever, I encountered other people like me.I was so relieved and considered myself lucky to meet them and slowly become friends with them.

After a lot of explanation and countless tears shed, my father and sister came around and became very supportive.I think that was a major turning point.

In 2001, Sunil Babu Panta former member of Parliament of Nepal (2008-12) and Asias first openly gay MP who also founded BDSwas talking about forming a LGBTI organization.He urged me to join him in this endeavor.I was very reluctant at first but eventually joined BDS with great fear and hesitation without telling my family.

A few years later, my family found out about my involvement with BDS and prevented me from leaving home for three days.In those three days when I was sequestered at home, I took the opportunity to tell explain to my family all about sexual orientation, gender identity, LGBTI people, and how these things are natural and not a choice.

After a lot of explanation and countless tears shed, my father and sister came around and became very supportive.I think that was a major turning point.But still it was more tolerance rather than full acceptance.

It has taken a long time for the letter and the spirit of the December 2007 verdict to be reflected in the law.In 2013, the government began issuing citizenship, passport and other legal documents with an other gender category.

In September 2015, Nepal promulgated a groundbreaking new constitution which protects the rights of gender and sexual minorities, making it the only country in Asia to institute such far-reaching protections.Despite being a small country, Nepal is a beacon of hope for other countries in South Asia and other parts of Asia where LGBTI people are often criminalized, persecuted and/or marginalized.

As I reflect on the Supreme Courts momentous decision on its ten year anniversary, it is joyful to note the positive impacts at the societal and policy levels.LGBTI Nepalis today are no longer in hiding as they used to be.We are more open, more visible and a part of civil society.

But there still a long way to go before we achieve true equality.For instance, transgender people still struggle to gain white collar office employment, discrimination against LGBTI employees is rampant, and LGBTI youth struggle to obtain education in an environment free of bullying.

At Blue Diamond Society, we work every day to make the lives of LGBTI Nepalis better, to expand their opportunities, and to counter the obstacles and threats they face. We do this through two key pillars of work: human rights advocacy and the provision of health, mental health and HIV services.

Our key objective is to make everyone aware that we are normal human beings, we are family members, we are neighbors, we are friends, and we belong

Because of our 16 years of hard work, today I can approach senior government officials, police officers, journalists, members of parliament, and judges and have them give me a fair hearing.They also reach out me.We also recognize that LBT women face reproductive health and other challenges that are often overlooked in our male-dominated and male-centered society.Many LGBTI youth face mental health challenges.We are committed to addressing them.

When it comes to society, most people are generally tolerant but prefer to sweep LGBTI issues under the carpet as they see it as somehow shameful.BDS works with various ministries of the Government of Nepal (especially the health ministry and social welfare ministry), Members of Parliament, the National Human Rights Commission, civil society partners and the international community including United Nations agencies and foreign diplomatic missions to raise awareness about the challenges for LGBTI Nepalis and to provide greater opportunities for them.

Our key objective is to make everyone aware that we are normal human beings, we are family members, we are neighbors, we are friends, and we belong.

While our new constitutionwhich we achieved after over two decades of political turmoil and a decade-long civil warenshrines the right to equality and the right to social justice LGBTI people, many of the values espoused by the constitution and by the December 2007 ruling of the Supreme Court of Nepal are yet to be achieved in practice.

For instance, successive governments have dragged their feet on introducing marriage equality despite our ongoing efforts.If the government introduced marriage equality, Nepal could be the first country in Asia to achieve it (unless Taiwan introduces a marriage equality law as per their Constitutional Courts order in May 2017).

As the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court's historic verdict is celebrated this December, including with a gay beauty pageantBDS organized the recent Mr. Gay Handsome Nepal competition (won by Manindra Singh) the LGBTQ community and my BDS colleagues are deeply frustrated and anxious because of the lack of measurable progress.

We have supportive court rulings, institutions and politicians, but nevertheless few laws and policies that explicitly protect us and advance our rights. More needs to be done by the community to push for our rights and by the government to protect us.

Marriage equality has been stalled since an attempt to enact it in parliament in 2010, and we need to make a fresh push for that so we can become the first country in Asia with marriage equality. Violence against LGBTQ people, while nowhere as high as many other parts of Asia and the world, does exist and needs to be combated. I look forward to being a leader in these efforts.

Manisha Dhakal is executive director of the Blue Diamond Society, and a Human Rights Campaign global innovator.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/i-grew-up-trans-in-nepal-then-became-one-of-its-lgbtq-leaders

The Fight for LGBT Equality in 2018 Will Be Fierce

Jay Michaelson: So, here we are at the end of a strange year for LGBTQ Americans. On the one hand, mainstream acceptance of gay people continues to spread; gays are now officially boring. On the other hand, trans people are being singled out for government persecution on the one hand and continued street violence on the other.

Meanwhile, as all three of us have written, the Trump-Pence administration is inflicting the "death of a thousand blows" against LGBTQ civil rights, severely limiting employment rights, marital rights, access to healthcare, access to safe facilities in schools, and so onwhile literally erasing LGBTQ people from government forms, proclamations, and observances.

For that reason, it's even harder than usual to look toward 2018 with any sense of certainty. What are we most hoping for in the year to come? And what do we fear?

Samantha Allen: I have written the word bathroom hundreds of times over the past two years of covering the various state-level attempts to restrict transgender peoples restroom use. I wish I never had to type it again; I didnt sign up to be a reporter to write about the human excretory system every week.

But in 2018, I am hoping to talk about bathrooms a lot less frequentlyand I have reason to believe that will be the case.

One of the most important victories for transgender people this year came in the form of something we avoided: a bathroom bill in Texas that would have effectively made birth certificates into tickets of entry for restrooms in public schools and government buildings. But that was scuttled at the last second by the business community, local law enforcement, and a sympathetic speaker of the House who said he [didnt] want the suicide of a single Texan on [his] hands.

Im confident that well see somebut fewerred-state legislatures really push for bathroom bills. Theyre political losers and money drainersand everyone in elected office knows that by now

I was in the state this summer when this thing almost got passed and I witnessed firsthand the gloriously outsized Texas rage against a bill that could have cost them billions (Tim wrote about the Texas bathroom battle at the time for the Daily Beast).

Between that and North Carolina being forced to repeal the most controversial aspects of HB 2 under pressure from the NCAA, Im confident that well see somebut fewerred-state legislatures really push for bathroom bills. Theyre political losers and money drainersand everyone in elected office knows that by now.

Tim Teeman: Id like to share your optimism, but Roy Moore supplies a harsh correctivefor me anyway. In the celebrations that followed his defeat at the hands of Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race, some difficult questions were left hanging.

Moore was a candidate whose rampant homophobiahis actual desire to see discrimination enacted against millions of LGBT Americans, his desire to see prejudice and discrimination enshrined in lawwent mostly unchallenged and unquestioned. Only on the last day of the race did Jake Tapper of CNN ask his spokesman whether Moore believed homosexuality should be illegal (the answer: Probably).

This was a shameful and telling omission by the media. The depressing footnote to Moores loss is that extreme homophobia itself is not a disqualification for a political candidate in 2017. Active homophobia was seen as a valid mandate to hold by the modern Republican Party.

Moore was only too happy to hold it close even in defeat, as he showed by posting (on Facebook) Carson Jones, Doug Jones gay sons, post-election interview with The Advocate. It was a sly attempt to stir up anti-gay poison. Politicians like Moore are thankfully fewer and fewer in number, but homophobia and transphobia are still a major currency in this White Houseand that Trump and other of Moores high-profile Republican supporters dont see it as a disqualifying characteristic tells us something very sad and alarming indeed.

Since ordinary gays are now not so novel, Hollywood's search for novelty is causing them to explore stories of people of color, rural folks, genderqueer folks, and other people who aren't Will or Grace

Jay Michaelson: I am putting most of my hopes outside the machinery of the state. Hollywood told some beautiful queer stories in 2017; I hope this expands and continues in 2018. A decade ago, when I was a professional activist, we had it drilled into us that the number one factor in someone "evolving" on any particular LGBTQ issue was knowing someone who was L, G, B, T, or Q. And if they didn't have firsthand knowledge, media figures counted too.

So, while the Republican party caters to its Christian Right base, I hope that continued media visibility makes them pay for doing so. There's a nice irony too: since ordinary gays are now not so novel, Hollywood's search for novelty is causing them to explore stories of people of color, rural folks, genderqueer folks, and other people who aren't Will or Grace. That might not be for the best motive, but the consequences could be profound.

Tim Teeman: Then we have the 'wedding cake' case at SCOTUS, which you have written about Jay. That seems currently going in favor of the baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. This isn't just about a wedding cake, of course, but providing a signal that discrimination based on "beliefs" is OK, which can be used against LGBT people in so many contexts.

Samantha Allen: Im afraid the Trump administrations attacks on the LGBT community will continue to be so persistent and so piecemeal that they will continue to get shuffled to the side. This past month, we were stunned when the Washington Post reported that the CDC had been discouraged from using the term transgender in preparing their annual budget, but if people had been paying closer attention to Trumps appointments in the Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies, this wouldnt have been a surprise.

We cant afford to pretend anymore like these are stunningly cruel attacks that come out of nowhere: leaders of anti-LGBT groups regularly walk the White House halls, they wield tremendous influence right now, and the administration is quietly giving them what they want.

Im worried that, with so many other scandals dominating the headlines, the systematic erosion of LGBT rights will continue to fly under the radar

Trumps tweets on transgender military service created a media shockwave, but that moment aside, the administrations attacks on LGBT people in 2017 have been considerably less flashy: amicus briefs filed to the Supreme Court, tinkering with executive orders, adjusting the Department of Justices approach to transgender students. All of these perniciously subtle attacks have taken place against a cultural backdrop of continuing bigotry and violence: In the last year, for example, at least 28 trans people have been killed, most of them transgender women of color.

Tim Teeman: I think one of the things the U.S. would do well to figure out (he said vainly) is the separation of Church and State. The Religious Right has such a grip on the levers of power here, in certain states and in certain administrations like President Trumps which is greatly relying on the bedrock of its support. LGBT people, activists and groups are facing a traumatic 2018, as the far right of the Republican support seeks to shore up support around Trump, and trans people especially are especially vulnerable in such an atmosphere.

Jay makes a good point: at a time when the Right seeks a ratcheting up of the LGBT culture war, LGBT people and their straight allies working in the culture at large should work to put a wide diversity of LGBT lives and characters into that culture, whether it be TV, film, literature, art, or whatever. Actual LGBT presence will be vital in 2018.

If this global backlash isn't stopped, queer people will be murdered, arrested, targeted, stigmatized, and forced to leave their countries (and then denied refugee status) in numbers we have never seen before

Samantha Allen: The death of a thousand blows of LGBT rights under Trump is only going to continue in 2018, and Im worried that, with so many other scandals dominating the headlines, the systematic erosion of LGBT rightsa phenomenon thats directly affecting at least 4 percent of the U.S. population and 7 percent of millennialswill continue to fly under the radar.

Thatd be like the Trump administration deciding one day that everyone in the state of Pennsylvania didnt deserve human rightsand it somehow not being front-page news every single day until it got fixed.

Jay Michaelson: My greatest fear for 2018 is on a somewhat macro-scale. The rise of nationalism, nativism, and right-wing populism around the world is terrifying. On one level, it's an understandable backlash against globalization, multiculturalism, and technology: people unable or unwilling to change are clinging to old identities and myths. But it's also profoundly dangerous, and queers are just one population endangered by it. It's not to be taken lightly.

Already we've seen the United States retreat from the whole concept of human rights, giving carte blanche to murderous anti-LGBTQ elements in Russia, Egypt, Chechnya, Indonesia, and elsewhere.

In 2018, the US will practically zero out its aid to vulnerable LGBT populations around the world. At the UN as elsewhere, America is now allied with Putin's Russia, in this case withdrawing protection from LGBT people and instead defending the oppression of us.

But this is just the beginning. If this global backlash isn't stopped, queer people will be murdered, arrested, targeted, stigmatized, and forced to leave their countries (and then denied refugee status) in numbers we have never seen before.

Figure out some way to help those who dont have as much, or who are especially politically and culturally vulnerable, and who could do with support. Give money, volunteer, whateverdo what you can

Tim Teeman: On that basis, LGBT people and their allies with any time, money, commitment and energy might think about involving themselves with activism and campaigning for organizations like The Trevor Project, HRC, Anti-Violence Project, National Center For Transgender Equality, GLSEN, PFLAG, OutRight Action International, and groups in their local area. If they don't want to do something overtly political, then maybe figure out a way to help those who dont have as much, or who are especially vulnerable, and who could do with supportwhether that be financial and pastoral.

If you need inspiration, look to Nathan Mathis who wasn't going to let Roy Moore winor lose at it turned outin Alabama without shaming him over his homophobia; and without remembering, in the most moving way possible, his dead lesbian daughter, Patti Sue.

Listen to, and be inspired by, the stirring stories of those from times when things were not just bleak but political progress and cultural evolution seemed alien and utterly distant. Eric Marcus has distilled, and continues to distill, amazing interviews with the likes of Sylvia Rivera and Frank Kameny, conducted for his landmark book Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight For Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights, into a must-listen podcast.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-fight-for-lgbt-equality-in-2018-will-be-fierce

‘The system’s violating everyone’: the Canadian trans parent fighting to keep gender off cards

Baby Searyl has a health card with no gender marked but for trans parent Kori Doty it is a small win in a broader battle

A parent whose baby has been given a health card that does not specify a gender believed to be a world first has said the aim is to allow the child to discover their gender on their own.

I think were starting to understand that gender identity is not directly attached to genitals, Kori Doty, a non-binary trans person who does not identify as male or female, told the Guardian in an interview.

I dont want to put them in a box where they only get to wear pink and ruffles or they only get to wear blue and trucks. Im just trying to leave that space open, so that when they can say who they are, that they dont have to say your guess was wrong.

Canadian authorities have issued baby Searyl Atli a health card that does not specify male or female in what campaigners describe as a victory in the fight to have gender omitted from government documents.

But since giving birth to Searyl at a friends home in November, Doty is still fighting to have the babys gender kept off the birth certificate. The fight is part of a broader, years-long push. Doty is one of eight trans and intersex individuals who have filed a human rights complaint against their home province of British Columbia, pointing to their personal experiences to allege that it is discriminatory to publish gender markers on birth certificates.

At the heart of their complaint is the presumption that only two genders exist and that babies must be slotted into one of these at birth, regardless of what gender identity they might develop later in life. Doing so leaves some struggling to contend with incorrect assumptions made about them at birth while others face a logistical nightmare of carrying identification that fails to accurately reflect who they are. In 2015, the human rights tribunal of British Columbia agreed to hear their complaint.

I think really this is about recognising a structure, or a system, that is violating everyone, said Doty, 31. The binary gender system causes problems for everyone, including people that find ways to fit and conform in it. It is a disservice to all.

Doty would instead like to have gender seen as part of a spectrum a view that would not only benefit trans and intersex people but also every boy who is cut off from their emotional wellbeing and told to suck it up and not cry and enculturated into toxic masculinity, said Doty. It also serves every girl who is told she shouldnt want to make things or be good at math or be strong.

After Searyl was born, the province refused to issue the child a birth certificate, pointing to the requirement that gender be noted on the document. In response Doty filed a legal challenge, citing the protection of gender expression in the provincial human rights code as well as in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Recently the province issued Searyl a health card marked with a U for gender assumed by Doty to mean undetermined or unassigned allowing the child access medical care. Despite the card arriving without explanation or comment from the ministry, Doty described it as a victory but noted: Its just not the end of the game.

Without a birth certificate, Searyl is listed as a non-citizen in the provinces system. The court case is expected to be heard in late autumn, said barbara findlay, a human rights lawyer who chooses to spell her name without capital letters and is working with Doty on the court challenge.

There used to be a reason to put sex on birth certificates. You used to need to know that because only men could vote, only men could own property, only men could sit in the Senate, and so on. Those days are long gone, said findlay. And just as we used to have race on birth certificates, but we dont any more, its time to take sex off birth certificates and treat it, like race, as a private matter.

As Doty pushes forward with the case, the parent has heard from both supporters and detractors. I know that Im being discussed in mens rights activist forums, I know that there are articles written about me and the way that my parenting practices are tantamount to abuse.

But the cost of doing nothing is too high, said Doty, pointing to polls that suggest as many as 40% of transgender people in the US have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. I want to raise my kid in such a way that whatever their gender is, it doesnt have to give them angst.

While the health card was a step forward, the ultimate goal is to have gender markers taken off all government documents, said Doty. Were talking about what is essentially a large-scale systemic change. Not just in the way that offices that issue documents function, but also in the way that our culture understands who we are, to ourselves and to each other, Doty added. That kind of change, it isnt a one-step game.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/the-systems-violating-everyone-the-canadian-trans-parent-fighting-to-keep-gender-off-cards