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How to Ask About Sexuality and Gender the census

The 2020 census questions drove Scout insane. Because there were no clear questions on sexual orientation or gender identity, he got the impression that he wasn’t included in the head count for the United States.
Within the LGBTQ community, the census only inquired about couples of the same sexual orientation who lived together, but Scout did not have a partner with whom he shared a residence. Therefore, in order to make up for it, he harassed his homosexual and cohabitating neighbours in Providence, Rhode Island, demanding that they react and give the community with at least some exposure.According to Scout, a transgender guy who goes by one name, “I was following them to fill out the census form since mine didn’t make a difference.” “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that I am completely rendered invisible by the census.”

This could change in the near future. The United States Census Bureau is requesting millions of dollars in order to conduct research on the most effective way to inquire about people’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The bureau is aware of the difficulty of convincing people to reveal information that the majority of people view as sensitive. The findings could give significantly improved statistics on the LGBTQ community throughout the country at a time when perspectives on sexual orientation and gender identity are shifting.
Kerith Conron, the research director of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which conducts study on these problems, said that “Change is in the air.” “It’s quite interesting.”

The request was made by the Census Bureau in light of President Joe Biden’s proclamation of June as\ “Pride Month.” “and because non-binary or intersex people may now get a “X” on their passports in addition to a “M” or a “F” in the United States. It is happening at a time when certain state legislatures, which are controlled by Republicans, have passed laws that limit what can be addressed in schools about sexual orientation and gender identity and have prevented transgender girls from participation in sports that are traditionally reserved for females.

“We are seeing that numbers matter when politicians are belittling and conducting cultural wars against individuals,” said Gina Duncan, a transgender woman who campaigns in Orlando with Equality Florida. “We are seeing that numbers matter when politicians are conducting culture wars against people.”

She made the observation that since the bureau is the biggest statistics agency in the country, it serves as a model for how other organisations and enterprises should ask similar questions.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and straight are the four labels that are most often used to refer to different sexual orientations. The terms male and female, both, and neither are often used to describe gender norms.

The ten million dollars would be spent over the course of many years to pay field tests conducted by the Census Bureau to evaluate various wordings and placements of items that would be included on its yearly American Community Survey.

The Bureau is also interested in analysing the responses that are given by “proxies,” who may be a parent, spouse, or any other member of the household who isn’t the subject of the inquiry but lives in the same home as the individual being questioned.

Other departments within the federal government already do inquire about sexual orientation, most often in the context of health surveys carried out by professional interviewers with respondents replying for themselves. Surveys conducted by the Census Bureau, which are far more broadly distributed, have a tendency to depend on proxies more.

Because they may have an effect on accuracy, wording and design are important.

Due to the form’s confusing structure, some census takers in 2010 were led to incorrectly record the genders of couples of opposing sexes, which resulted in an incorrectly inflated number of households consisting entirely of people of the same gender. Studies have also found that certain transgender persons are more likely to tick both the “male” and “female” boxes when asked about their gender identity.

It’s possible that some responders won’t want to provide such sensitive information, or that they won’t know how to react to the question. In addition, there is a possibility that some proxies are unaware of the sexual orientation as well as the gender identity of everyone living in their home. Because of concerns over accuracy and anonymity, surveys in several countries, such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom, do not permit proxy reporting for items pertaining to sexual orientation.

The United States Government Statistical System is Currently Unable to Provide High-Quality Information Regarding Sexual and Gender Minorities, as stated by the Census Bureau in its budget submission for the year 2023. This is due to the lack of improvement and expansion of data gathering on this subject.

This study may assist us in estimating the size of the LGBTQ community in the United States, which is both expanding and becoming more diverse “a Census Bureau statement stated.

Legislation that would require data on sexual orientation and gender identity to be gathered freely in government surveys will be discussed the next week by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The discussion will take place the following week.

According to a report that was published in the spring by the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering, the federal government has traditionally treated sexual orientation and gender identity as binary categories — gay or straight, male or female. However, this can mask greater complexities and a wider range of identities, as stated in the report.

It is now possible for same-sex couples to indicate whether or not they are married or in a domestic partnership in the decennial census, the annual American Community Survey, and the annual Current Population Survey. However, this does not include LGBTQ individuals who do not have a relationship or who do not reside in the same home as their partner. Furthermore, the only alternatives for the gender question are “male” and “female.”

According to Conron, the same-sex answer only accounts for a fifth of the LGBTQ population in the country since it only considers people who live together regardless of their sexual orientation.

Only the online version of the bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which was developed at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, gives respondents the option to choose “transgender” or “none of these” in addition to “male” and “female.” In addition to this, it gives respondents the option to describe themselves as homosexual, straight, bisexual, “something else,” or “I don’t know.”” Despite this, the Household Pulse Survey is considered an experimental survey, and as such, it may not fulfil certain of the statistical quality requirements established by the bureau.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the countries that make up the United Kingdom are some examples of other nations that already include questions on sexual orientation in their data collection.

It is recommended in a report compiled by a group of United States government agencies that questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity be asked of respondents in a manner that is distinct from one another, and that the terminology used to ask questions of older adults be modified before being applied to teenagers, given that their preferred terminologies, such as “queer,” may be different. It is also important to take into account the cultural, regional, and linguistic distinctions. According to the paper, some Native Americans may self-identify as “two-spirit” rather than homosexual or bisexual. Additionally, the term “heterosexual” was discovered to eliminate misunderstanding over the phrase “straight, that is, not gay,” which doesn’t translate properly from English to Spanish.

Duncan made the observation that “each new generation is increasingly diversified in its sexuality and gender.” “The Census Bureau ought to maintain its relevance by keeping up with that change.”

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

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