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    Let’s Be Counted! #LGBTdata

    By Alex Randolph, City College Trustee

    Every ten years, people all over the country receive long surveys in the mail or greet friendly door knockers. It must be Census time! Although many of us participate in this civic exercise, most might not fully understand the tremendous importance the Census plays in our American democracy—especially now more than ever.

    As enshrined in our Constitution, every decade since 1790 (!) the Federal Government has collected data about our country’s economy and residents. The data received from the various surveys plays a critical role in how over $400 billion in federal funds gets allocated every year, and it helps states and communities make better local policy decisions.

    At City College, for example, the information helps us to better understand the students we are serving in our community, and what specific future educational needs they might have. Likewise, every ten years the states reapportion their congressional, state, and local districts based on the Census. This has a profound and long lasting impact on the political make-up of not only Congress, but also the various state legislatures across the country.

    The 2016 election was another watershed moment as the Democratic Party was not only defeated in the presidential race, but also got wrecked on the state level. Currently, Republicans control both legislative chambers in 32 states and the single chamber in Nebraska. State legislatures usually determine future boundaries of congressional districts, and consequently, who controls the House of Representatives.

    Ever heard of gerrymandering? While everyone was focused on the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, most overlooked that the head of the Census Bureau stepped down that same week. On the eve of the 2020 survey, this leaves the Bureau in a leadership vacuum, while fighting for a budget and pushing back against political pressures.

    More importantly for our community, shortly after Trump’s inauguration, the Bureau announced that it saw no federal data need to include questions about sexual identity and gender identity in the 2020 survey. This was despite four federal agencies under the Obama administration requesting them to be added in the first place. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services eliminated us from two surveys: the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the Centers for Independent Living Annual Program Performance Report.

    So why does it matter that LGBTs will not be counted? Many in our community still face significant isolation and economic disparities. LGBT seniors have specific needs that make them unique from the general population. Since Harvey Milk’s charge to come out wherever we are, we have been fighting for greater visibility and support. It is easier to claim that we don’t exist or require government resources if there is no data about us for cities, states, and non-profits to use for critical needs assessments and funding decisions. It is also harder to push for employment non-discrimination laws if right-wing leaders can claim there are no LGBTs in their community.

    Thankfully, on July 18, ninety-eight members of Congress introduced The LGBT Data Inclusion Act (#LGBTdata), sponsored by our own lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin and Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva. The Act requires federal surveys to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. This data will provide agencies with critical data to support programs that serve our community and allocate resources to meet specific needs, something that is already done in Canada and other countries.

    I know there is a lot to fight back against already, and it can get so overwhelming. But let’s make sure our LGBT community is not made invisible again. All of us came out for a reason. Let’s keep it that way!

    For more information about the Act and to support it, visit: http://tiny.cc/LGBTdata

    Alex Randolph is a Trustee for City College of San Francisco. He previously served in President Obama’s administration and as an LGBT advisor for Mayor Newsom. He lives in the Castro with his partner Trevor. Follow him on social media:  www.twitter.com/adrandolph & www.facebook.com/AlexDRandolph