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Making us count: Chicago queer couples in the census
Part 2 of a series
by Joseph Erbentraut, Windy City Times

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As the community anticipates the summer release of U.S. Census Bureau data on same-sex couples as reported in last year's decennial census, Windy City Times is running the second part of our series analyzing existing data from the "mini-census" American Community Surveys as it pertained to self-reporting same-sex couple-led households across the state of Illinois. [ See the April 20 issue of Windy City Times for part one. ]

This part two, we dig deeper into ACS data pertaining specifically to the city of Chicago. Just as the statewide analysis shed light on queer communities spread across a wide geographical expanse, our analysis continues to challenge the stereotype that LGBTQ people live exclusively in the most urban, glitzy parts of the state or, in this case, the city.

That said, much like last week's finding that half of the state's estimated 25,710 "unmarried partner households" ( as they are labeled by the Census bureau ) can be found in Cook County, a large portion ( 37.1 percent ) of the city's unmarried partner households are estimated to be located in the four northernmost Lakefront-adjacent community areas.

Perhaps expectedly, Lakeview leads the way among the city's 77 designated community areas—identified by the University of Chicago's Social Research Committee, in terms of its total number of estimated same-sex couple-led households. Lakeview is home to 1,106 such households, or 12 percent of the city total, followed by Edgewater ( 951, 10.3 percent ) , Rogers Park ( 736, 8 percent ) and Uptown ( 635, 6.9 percent ) . These are only self-reporting same-sex couple-led households.

When these four community areas are combined with their nearest neighbors to the west—West Ridge, Lincoln Square and North Center—the seven combined community areas still account for just less than half ( 46.4 percent ) of the city's total, indicating that any North Side-centric story about LGBTQ Chicagoans is, indeed, only telling ( less than ) half of the story of the city's queer communities.

Significant enclaves of queer households can also be found on the city's West and South Sides. Three of the top 10 community areas with the highest total of same-sex couple-led households are found on the Near West Side—namely West Town ( including Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village ) , Logan Square and Near West ( including Little Italy and the University of Illinois-Chicago campus ) . When accompanied with its adjacent-to-the-north neighbor, the up-and-coming Avondale neighborhood, the four areas make up 12.6 percent of the city's total.

Five lakefront-bordering areas on the city's South Side also account for a significant portion of the city's total estimate of queer couple-led households. Between the areas of Kenwood, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore and South Chicago, an estimated 5.9 percent of the city's total live.

When reported as a percentage of all the estimated households in their respective community area, Lakeview's rate of self-reported same-sex couple-led households ( 2.1 percent ) remains well above the city average ( 0.9 percent ) but its ranking falls behind two others—Edgewater ( 3.2 percent ) and Rogers Park ( 3.0 percent ) .

Comparing the community areas' ratios of queer male households to queer female households, Edgewater ( 1.60 male households for every one female household ) , Uptown ( 3.04:1 ) and Rogers Park ( 3.91:1 ) are much more in line with the city average ( 1.89 male households for every 1 female household ) than Lakeview. Lakeview is estimated to be home to 10.77 queer male households for every one female household.

The variance in queer male:female households is further accentuated between Edgewater and Lakeview when the analysis is narrowed to the Census tracts comprising the respective Andersonville and Boystown "gayborhoods." Andersonville's male-to-female ratio is estimated to be 1.33:1, while Boystown's is 12.15:1. Andersonville's rate of queer couple-led households as a percentage of all households ( 5.3 percent ) is also markedly higher than Boystown ( 2.4 percent ) . While we're not going to choose a side in this battle of the particular battle of the gayborhoods, we're going to go ahead and let these numbers speak for themselves.

Our analysis, finally, found another large discrepancy in how many queer female couple-led households reported a home south of Roosevelt Road ( largely accepted as the boundary between the northern half of the city and its southern portion ) . Eighty-six percent of queer male households are found north of Roosevelt, while only 50 percent of queer female households are found in the northern half of the city. Further, among the community areas with the top 15 queer male:female ratios, 11 are found north of Roosevelt. That finding is reversed among the top 15 female:male ratios, where 11 such areas are located south of Roosevelt.

All told, only seven of the city's 77 community areas ( 9 percent ) did not report being home to any same-sex couple-led households. Queer households can be found throughout the city—hroughout its North, West and South sides, a notable assertion to be shared with any lawmaker or public decision-maker outside of the city's Lakefront-adjacent North Side who may not see LGBTQ concerns as issues of interest to their constituents.

However, all of these numbers are presented, just as with last week's statewide analysis, with significant caveats. First, many LGBTQ people remain invisible in the Census's eyes as the current survey offers no option for single people, as well as many bisexual people, transgender people and individuals who do not live with their partners to identify themselves.

As the sample size of this data goes down, so too does the reliability of the data. For example, the estimate of 9,228 same-sex couple-led households across the city, based on ACS data from the 2005-2009 five-year file, has a margin of error of +/- about 10 percent. As the lens focuses in closer on specific community areas, as in this analysis, that margin of error grows even higher, and for this reason, this analysis is meant to offer only a sketch of what the forthcoming decennial Census data may report.

Gary Gates, a Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA law school, has recently come under some fire in the community for releasing a recent report estimating that, based on the limited existing data that is reliable, only some four million adults identify as gay or lesbian—1.7 percent of the adult population, far lower than the popular 10 percent Kinsey Institute figure.

However, as Gates wrote in an April 8 op-ed in the Washington Post, such estimates—which he is among the first to call "imprecise"—sound a rallying cry for more reliable demographical data on LGBTQ communities. " [ T ] here certainly is no longer a need to prove that gay people exist," Gates said, but as courts and lawmakers throughout the country take up debates surrounding how queer Americans can live their lives, accurate, defendable numbers are needed. Gates has been one of the leading advocates for the Census Bureau to add a question specifically pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity to upcoming ACS forms.

"Assumptions about people are flimsy; numbers are solid," Gates said, referencing the decades-old Kinsey report. "The reality of our political system is that you don't really count unless you are counted. So it's time to stop believing an old estimate and start making an accurate count."

Please also see Part 1 at

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