Queer/Race in the Census

Posted in Uncategorized by kth14 on April 8, 2010

This article is against “queering the census” or rather adding an option on the census about sexual orientation. This argues that LGBTQ peoples are struggling for the same rights as heterosexual people and therefore categorizing non-heterosexual individuals would be against the idea of the LGBTQ community being ordinary Americans.

Gay “Marriage”

Instead of getting a part on the census where one can indicate sexual orientation, the lesbian and gay individuals can now check the “married” box if they believe that reflects the status of their relationship. On the census form they are allowed to participate an acknowlege their relationship as a marriage while legally they are not allowed to have this title.

President Obama filled out his census form and when asked about race he checked the “Black, African Am., or Negro” box despite being half white. The government is trying to encourage people to check whichever box they feel expresses them best, which for Obama was black/African American/negro instead of “multiracial” or “white.”

So, the census is a very big deal and highly publicized to the point where I do not want to do it because it is being shoved down my throat too much. But, some recent articles have taken a very critical view of the census and how it applies to the LGBTQ community and racial communities, specifically black peoples. The first article, “Don’t queer the census” has some good points about the LGBTQ community being just Americans instead of the “gays” or “queer” population. Not having a box to choose sexual orientation integrates queer people with the normative, heterosexual population.

Also, there are way too many ways for queer people to identify themselves (gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, I just like to experiment, etc) and trying to define queer people in specific ways is hard to do while including every definition and combination of definitions. Each individual has his or her own identity and sexual preferences, should we include  on the census the type of person we are attracted to (big muscles, blonde, tan, really smart guys with glasses-this is for an example and not true as to who my type is, so if you qualify, don’t waste your time. Unless you’re the character Ben from Queer as Folk…)?

This somewhat segues into my next point about race on the census. Obama checked black/African American/negro. Yeah right. Obama is the whitest black person ever-he’s even half white! So, why is he checking this box instead of white or multiracial (which would make most sense)? He’s trying to appeal to the black community as well as any other liberal community (LGBTQ, democrats, lower class) that finds his race appealing and a good reason for him to be President. Now, I don’t really have anything against Obama (I’m a Hilary girl) and I think he’s doing OK as President (well, everyone looks good after Bush) but he needs to stop trying to appeal to an audience of black Americans, like by checking the black race box.

The race box is kind of annoying to me because I am not just “white,” I’m Irish and English and some other European countries. But, how come I do not get to express my heritage and background? Just because I am white I am simply an American and white is my race? Is black a race now? I thought that race was a cultural or geographical heritage or background, not simply the color of our skin. In a couple months when I’m sunburnt, can I check a “red” box?

Or, my great-great-grandmother was Native American, so can I check the Native American box? It seems that the race box is trying to access one’s background and heritage, but the boxes that are on the census do not really determine a person’s culture and upbringing. Obama may be half black and check the black box because that’s what he identifies with, but he is one of the most culturally white-black people ever.

I want to briefly mention the article about LGBTQ people being able to identify their relationship as a marriage in the census, but not legally. The census is allowing people to be very liberal with describing themselves and statuses (as liberal as possible with boxes) which may distort the results. While it is open-minded to be able to allow people to choose their relationship statuses and races based on how they feel they identify them, the results may also be misleading because multiracial people identify themselves as black and two lesbians living together identify as married when they legally are not. The census is taking a scientific, precise way of accounting for every American and making it more illogical and imprecise, which is good in some ways and bad in others.

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2 Responses

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  1. saimaanika said, on April 8, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I did a blog here about the Census related to the Queer society a few weeks back as well, so I also have some knowledge about this subject and I’ve done a lot of thinking about it. I think there should be a question about sexual orientation. I know that many people may have more intricate sexual orientation and is definitely not black and white (well, really is any sexual orientation black and white even if you’re specifically straight or gay?). Anyway, I think the question should have a list of all of the sexual orientations known to mainstream people, such as straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, bicurious (perhaps?), and so on and people can pick which ever options suits them. Then, there should be an option of no labels for people who don’t like to label their sexual orientation. There also should be a box at the bottom of the list where you can choose to explain your sexual orientation if it is more intricate. I think we should do this because I guard as sexual orientation as being a predominant and precious aspect of one’s identity.
    As far as your argument with Obama, yes he does seem to be always trying to get through to the African American community through that part of his race any chance he gets, but we also have to think that maybe (just maybe) he feels more identified with his African American side of his race more than his white side. Yes, his mother was white and he spent most of his childhood with her rather than his father from Kenya. But still, we really don’t know every nuance of his life and what are the reasons that make him identity himself with one race over the other, if that is the case and not just because he wants to get through to a more liberal community, such as the African American community. So, there could be some discrepancy there because we don’t know the real reason for sure.

  2. kth14 said, on April 8, 2010 at 4:16 am

    I agree with your idea about how to put a sexual orientation question on the census-I think it could be a good thing, because I think that people should be able to celebrate their differences and be proud of their sexuality. If they don’t want to share that information, then they don’t have to answer. I’m torn between the two options. I think it is a good thing for queerness to be normal and part of the general population and for LGBTQ people to be thought of simply as Americans and not defined as LGBTQ or whatever. But, I also think it is a good thing for LGBTQ people to be different and seperate because they are and a large part of themselves is defined by their sexuality, very similar to race.
    I also completely understand and agree about Obama being able to choose which race he identifies with-I don’t mean to be racist or ignorant or anything, I am just extremely critical of politicians and I see every little thing they do as a show or political agenda, which is how I feel about Obama checking the black/AfricanAmerican/negro box. Of course we don’t know the real reason, but Ifeel Obama is very much about his image to the point where Iam very skeptical.
    He could be participating Kenyan cultural practices everyday for all we know.

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