2010 census should ask for sexual orientation

I’m curious to find out just how many gays and lesbians there really are in America. The gay rights movement often touts the 10% number (or more), and their opposition claims that the number’s closer to 2% (or less). I know it takes time to get the federal government to do anything, so why not start a discussion on using the nonpartisan U.S. Census Bureau to directly ask the question in 2010? I suggest something like:

“How many people in this household
consider themselves to be gay, lesbian,
bisexual, transgendered, or queer?”

We’ll be much better equipped to make sound public policy if we know how large this segment of the population truly is. We’d also have better figures on their household income, childlessness, and other important statistics. It can’t hurt.
What do you think?

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14 comments

  1. jaws

    I think the one problem with what you suggest is that it makes too much sense…and as such, probably won’t occur. You’d probably hear a lot of (angry) noise from both sides of the debate against such a question…which would ultimately get nothing done.

  2. Citizen Z

    Hmm. Apparently my comment got cut off because I stupidly used a triangle bracket for emphasis. The rest of my comment was that the census apparently already measures “same-sex households” even though they don’t specifically ask about orientation. Sounds like a weak measurement and I can’t find the actual census data but the Fox News article included in my previous post mentions the numbers.

  3. Chet

    I’m curious why you want to know. Also with the political climate so anti-gay, do you think people might not see this as the totally innocent out-of-curiosity demographics survey you’re proposing?
    No offense but it’ll never happen; its too easily mistaken for some kind of “gay registration”, or the first step in rounding them up for the camps. Of course you didn’t intend it that way, but that’s the way it would play. It wasn’t too long ago that Hoover was trying to hire psychologists to sniff out the homosexuals in the State Department, after all.

  4. Paula Whidden

    Good idea. I’ll confess it’s probably a little annoying, just like the listing of one’s race. But isn’t that the point of a census, to determine who is the population and surmise their needs based on the demographics.

  5. Puddle Pirate

    I don’t see how anybody who’s intellectually honest would read the question as “anti-gay” or somesuch. I’d think the true believers in the 10% statistic would jump at this chance, just to say to me and mine, “See? We told you so!”

  6. Chet

    I don’t see how anybody who’s intellectually honest would read the question as “anti-gay” or somesuch.
    I agree, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that, in this political climate, a government survey of sexual orientations might not provide accurate results due to people misreporting their orientation out of a fear of persecution.
    I’d like to know, too, but the US Census isn’t likely to get accurate results. Which is a shame.

  7. Tim

    I fail to see the point. What percentage of Americans have to be gay to make their rights an issue? What’s the difference if it’s 2% or 70%? While I’d like to know from a curiousity standpoint, I doubt it would have much bearing on policy making decisions and it would most certainly be seen as a witch hunt.
    And seriously, “queer”?

  8. Puddle Pirate

    Hey, I’m just using the terms I keep seeing among gay rights activists when they refer to themselves. You know … GLBTQ, “queer studies” programs at colleges, etc. Is it that offensive? I have no idea. I’m a straight conservative Christian whose life doesn’t overlap with the gay community at all.

  9. Josh Jasper

    Anyone can find anything offensive. The term “queer” depends on context. You can use it offensivey or innofensivley. Like “Jew”. If you say “he Jewed me out of it”, it’s offensive. If you say, “queer” in a neutral way, only someone oversensitive will get offended.
    Of course, queer folks often have good reasons to be sensistive to what straights say. It comes from having “queer” associated with “child molestor” by places like Fox News.

  10. Tim

    queer
    1. Deviating from the expected or normal; strange: a queer situation.
    2. Odd or unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric. See Synonyms at strange.
    3. Of a questionable nature or character; suspicious.
    4. Slang. Fake; counterfeit.
    5. Feeling slightly ill; queasy.
    6. Offensive Slang. Homosexual.
    7. Usage Problem. Of or relating to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgendered people.
    I know a lot of “queer” people who aren’t gay. I just think if you’re doing a scientific poll, you should use scientific terms. Gay or lesbian, and that’s about it. Transgendered is a different issue.
    Given the change to just asking if they are gay/lesbian, it would still be viewed as a witchunt. So, offended, maybe not. Skeptical of the intent, absolutely.