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  WINDY CITY TIMES

OPEN LETTER Census 2020: The LGBTQ+ community counts
2020-03-27

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It's a new decade, and that means it's time to complete the Census.

The Census is done every 10 years, and informs funding for neighborhood improvements, school districts, public health, the building of new roads and much more. Everyone is affected by the Census. Gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor, native born or immigrant. Everyone matters. We all count.

Even with COVID-19 forcing us to shelter in place, the 2020 Census is moving forward. Historically, LGBTQ+ people are undercounted in official data, and we can't let that continue. We exist, and we need to be included in how our communities move forward.

The LGBTQ+ community has always played a vital part in this nation's history and success. We are not a minor population subset. We are a powerful constituency made even more impactful because we cross racial, ethnic, religious, income, gender and many other intersectional identities. An accurate Census count of our community is critical to ensuring programs that address our unique needs are fairly funded. It will also highlight the importance of our political voice which, in a democracy like ours, is critical. If we are not counted then we won't count. It's that simple.

This year, for the first time in census history, same-sex couples will be able to declare their existence on the census form. While imperfect and incomplete, it represents an important step towards recognizing our community. We will continue to work on future Census, so that everyone in our community are counted and counted for who they are. But for now, we need to seize the moment and have our voices be heard.

Even before COVID-19, we faced an uphill climb in getting an accurate count. Anti-immigrant fervor and debate over the citizenship question has already had a chilling impact on participation. The first-time use of online forms has heightened fears over privacy and confidentiality. Misinformation and historical mistrust of these initiatives by our community has increased hesitance to responding. And now no one is focused on the Census because we are too busy trying to avoid getting sick. Here are some facts to dispel those myths: Census information is completely confidential. Census information cannot be given to any law enforcement, other government or outside agencies for use. And no one needs to visit your home if you complete the form online—including using your smartphone, by phone or the paper form. It has truly never been easier to complete the Census from the privacy of your own home.

Completing the Census does not benefit the government. Completing it benefits you and your community.

Let's shape our community's future. Together.

Signed by:

IDHS Census Grant Regional Intermediary

Tina Hone, Chief Equity Officer, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

YWCA IDHS Census Grant Subrecipients

Chris Smith, Executive Director, Affinity Community Services

Saul Zepeda, Director of Special Programs/Census Project Lead, AIDS Foundation Chicago

Modesto "Tico" Valle, Chief Executive Officer, Center on Halsted

Alonzo Brown, Interim Executive Director, Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus

Brian C. Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Equality Illinois

Andie Baker, Vice President, Center for Education, Howard Brown Health

Jerome' Holston, Director, LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois

Jessica Rodriguez, Director of Development, La Casa Norte

Diana Perez, 2020 Census Coordinator, SGA Youth and Family Services

Shobhana Johri Vermi, Executive Director, South Asian American Research and Policy Institute

Deanne Benos, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Women's Justice Institute


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