Every ten years our federal government conducts the Census, a count of every person residing in the United States, so that they can allocate funds for programs like Medicaid, public housing, and food stamps, and so that they can make sure that our federal, state, and local elected officials are representing roughly the same number of people.
Attorneys, advocates, activists, and service providers then use those data to press decision-makers for change, to show the needs of their communities, and to enforce our civil rights. For the Census to work–to direct funds to the right places and to help all of us access democracy–it has to count everyone in the country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Every decade, the Census misses or undercounts hundreds of thousands of marginalized people, including low-income people, people of color, and very young children. At the same time, it over counts, or double counts, hundreds of thousands of people with the most privilege, including the white population, homeowners, and wealthy people.
Overcounts of privileged people and undercounts of marginalized people reinforce systems of power and oppression in this country. That’s why the Task Force is working with our colleagues in the LGBTQ and social justice movements to ensure that all of us, and especially people from marginalized communities, are counted on the 2020 Census.
Although the Census doesn’t explicitly ask about our sexual orientation and gender identity, it is still critical for us to be counted on the 2020 Census. We need to be counted so our communities can:
- Get access to federal funds for programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and public housing - Have representation in our state, local, and federal government - Enforce our civil rights
The Census helps LGBTQ communities access billions in federal funding for social programs, helps us build political power, and helps us enforce civil rights protections.
Meghan Maury (They/ Them) , Policy Director, National LGBTQ Task Force
of LGBTQ families participate in Medicaid nationally
The Census is a short survey conducted every ten years to determine how many people are living in the U.S. It counts everyone – regardless of immigration status.
Census data are used to distribute millions of dollars in federal funds for programs that LGBTQ people are more likely to need, like HIV services, SNAP benefits (food stamps), Medicaid, and public housing. The Census also determines our representation in Congress, which has a significant impact on our ability to push legislators to meet the needs of our community.
The 2020 Census does not explicitly ask about sexual orientation and gender identity.
However, it does include new response options that allow respondents to report that they are living with a same-sex partner. While this change is an improvement, it doesn't go nearly far enough—the Census still doesn't collect any data about transgender people, LGBTQ people who aren't in a relationship, or don't live with a partner, or bisexual people in relationships with different-sex partners. In other words, we won't get any data on LGBTQ identities—which we need to best understand the needs of our communities and to advocate for change.
That's why the Task Force and other LGBTQ advocates are continuing to advocate for sexual orientation and gender identity questions to be added to the Census in the future.
There is no right answer to this question. You can answer the question in whatever way feels best for you. However, for many people—especially people who identify as nonbinary, Two-Spirit, and intersex—there is no answer to a binary sex question that feels "best."
The Census Bureau will not compare your response to other legal documents. Also, see below for information about leaving a question blank.
You can leave a question blank. If you do, the chances of a Census enumerator following up with you in person increases. However, if it's just one question, the more likely result is that the Census Bureau will "impute" a response, meaning they will use a statistical formula to calculate a "likely" response to the skipped question.
The Census Bureau cannot share any personally identifiable information with anyone for 72 years – including other federal agencies, your landlord, law enforcement, and immigration officials.
You can still be counted in the Census! If there's a place you stay regularly, ask to be included on the form for that household. If there isn't a place you stay regularly, you can still fill out the Census even without an address. The easiest way is to fill it out online – click the button on the first page indicating that you don't have a Census ID, and in the following pages, you'll see spots to mark that you don't have a street address. You can indicate you're experiencing homelessness on a subsequent screen.
The Census Bureau is working to ensure the Census will be accessible to everyone. You can complete the Census online, by phone, or by mail:
Online: The questionnaire follows the latest web accessibility guidelines.
By phone, you can respond in English or in 12 additional languages.
Chinese (Mandarin): 844-391-2020
Chinese (Cantonese): 844-398-2020
Haitian Creole: 844-477-2020
English (for Puerto Rico residents): 844-418-2020
Spanish (for Puerto Rico residents): 844-426-2020
By mail: Braille and large print guides are available online to assist you with completing the paper questionnaire.
Pledge to be counted on the 2020 Census!
Thank you for helping us #QueertheCensus by pledging to be counted in the 2020 Census!