Sarah de Cesare, 14, with her mom Anne Marie de Cesare, holding a Gay Straight alliance sign, and Harper Rathmann,18, participate in the Equality March for Unity and Pride San Jose at City Hall on June 11, 2017. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)
After the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City in June of 1969, I immediately helped organize a Gay Liberation Front in San Jose. We demanded inclusion into San Jose State University presentations and protested speakers from the state Department of Education for not including LGBT history in school curricula.
“Come out of the closets and into the streets” became a militant clarion call. This revolutionary spirit motivated lesbians and gays who established women centers, battered women shelters, self-help health groups, anti-rape groups and later formed Act Up, fighting for people with AIDS.
After decades of fighting for recognition, the Trump administration is trying to throw us back in those closets. It is refusing to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the 2020 Census, along with deleting the LGBT rights page from the White House official website, terminating the White House Office of AIDS Policy and deeply cutting the HIV/AIDS research budget.
The Census Bureau reports to Congress three years before the roll-out of a new census. The report includes questions for the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau Commerce Department. The data will be used to distribute more than $400 billion in federal dollars each year, allocated resources for communities, including LGBT necessary services.
In April 2016, more than 75 members of Congress wrote to the Census Bureau requesting addition of sexual orientation and gender identity as a subject for the American Community Survey. However, John Thompson, Census Bureau Director, said “Our proposal to Congress was that the planned subjects remain unchanged from the 2010 Census… It did not include sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The 2010 Census was the first attempt to report counts of both same-sex partners and same-sex spouses. The person filling out the form (Person 1) identifies how other individuals in the household are related to him or her. Same-sex couples who are married, or consider themselves to be spouses, can identify one other adult as a “husband or wife.”
What if (Person 1) has an androgynous name. Identifying (Person 2) as husband or wife does not necessarily designate a same-sex couple. Other same-sex couples decided to use the designation “unmarried partner.”
My partner and I welcomed this on our 2010 census form. But “unmarried partner” could apply also to a heterosexual relationship. The addition of sexual orientation and gender identity would recognize and validate our existence.
We are part of every community, all races, ethnicities, and social/economic classes. Yet, if we are not also identified as LGBT through sexual orientation and gender identity questions, we are an invisible part of the Census. We struggle decades for our identity − to be acknowledged in communities − not to be uncounted and put in the shadows.
We have the opportunity, perhaps as never before, to unite all our communities by building on lessons learned through the movements for social justice. Attempts to erase any of us, deport us, restrict control of our bodies or condone racism are attacks on each of us.
We are connected.
Patricia Jackson is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project and a community activist who lives in Tucson, Ariz. She wrote this for The Mercury News.