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LETTER: The U.S. Census important to LGBTQ community political, economic power

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We've all seen the messaging about the Census and many of us might just wonder whether completing it truly makes a difference.

As a director on the board for a social services agency that serves undercounted communities, it is my responsibility to understand why completing the census is so very important. We must be counted for us to benefit from the allocation of political and economic power. I hope that this short read inspires a shared responsibility we have to one another—a community that must continue to be heard during such a pivotal time in our fight for social justice and equality.

The year was 1995. I can still remember the myriad of emotions as I had planned my visit to the Halsted Street Cafe, with a bright pink leaflet in hand with an artsy logo that read "Generation Q" on the front cover. I felt anxious yet excited about meeting other queer reflections of who I was becoming as a young man. Although I was only a teenager at the time, I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to be honest with myself and with those who surrounded me about my identity. I somehow knew it would be the only way I would achieve the various dreams I had concocted for myself in my youth. Fear of rejection, discrimination because of my ethnicity, my stocky size or perceived lack of intelligence or worth crossed my mind as I walked through those doors of the cafe; nonetheless, it would be the best decision I had made for myself at such an impressionable time. Generation Q would launch my life into a trajectory of self-acceptance that has long been a key ingredient to my success.

Today—as an entrepreneur, scholar and activist—I think about how Generation Q, a social services program for inner city LGBTQ youth, may not have existed if our community hadn't been counted in the U.S. Census. Now, consider those programs and agencies that you are passionate about. While we won't see direct questions regarding gender identity or sexual orientation on the census form, fair access to social services depends on funding entities being aware that we exist.

I also believe that the elected leaders who ensure our community has fair representation are given a voice because of the census, since results ultimately determine how many seats we have in government. Regardless of how we feel about it, we are considered a priority as a "hard-to-count population" by the U.S. Census Bureau and, ultimately, the presence of the LGBTQ community matters. The bottom line is if we don't participate in the census, we're excluded from the social progress which benefits our community.

Want to get involved? LGBTQ community members can participate in LGBTQ+ week of action beginning June 29. The State of Illinois, Cook County and the City of Chicago will wrap up Illinois Census Month with a Pride Census social media "thunderclap" on Monday, June 29, at 10:30-11:30 a.m. This thunderclap will focus on the importance of counting our LGBTQ+ communities.

I encourage everyone to engage your networks, colleagues, friends and family to share information about the census on your social media sites. Share stories about your experiences taking the census and posting your stories via social media (Facebook, Twitter, IG), using the hashtags #QTC #BeYouBeCounted, #QueerTheCensus #Queer and #WillBeCounted.

In addition, there's a Census 2020 playlist on Spotify that you can check out, share and enjoy! Check out the playlist at .

Milton Rodriguez

Incoming Board Chair

El Rincon Family Services

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