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Stand up and be counted
by Grace Yao

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As the LGBTQ+ navigator of Chinese Mutual Aid Association, I want to encourage everyone, both LGBTQ+ individuals and cisgender/straight allies, to get counted in Census 2020.

Many of you might wonder whether completing the Census really makes a difference, and I'm writing to tell you it does! When it comes to the Census, there really is power in numbers, and we must be counted to benefit from the allocation of economic resources and political power. As a queer Asian American myself, I'm excited for this opportunity to participate, in a small but important way, in positive change for the LGBTQ community.

The LGBTQ community contributes so much to the culture and vibrancy of the city of Chicago, but it has been historically excluded and underrepresented in this country. In the continued fight to be heard, it is important for us to be represented in the 2020 Census. The LGBTQ community is considered a part of the "Hard to Count Population" for various reasons, including the disproportionate rates of homelessness for queer and trans individuals.

The demographic data from Census responses impacts everything within our communities; it will determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding will be allotted for education, healthcare, social services, and other essential resources in our communities for the next 10 years. Fair access to social services and other much needed services depends on funding entities knowing that we exist!

We have a shared responsibility to one another to be counted. Additionally, Census responses determine how many seats each state has in the House of Representatives, which is divided up by a state's population. If participation in the Census is low in our state, or if communities are undercounted, we could lose congressional seats, lessening our political power. We need to be counted to ensure that we are properly represented in government and that our voices are heard. If we do not participate in the Census, the LGBTQ community will continue to be invisible and we continue to be silenced as we have been throughout history.

Due to the continued advocacy for LGBTQ inclusion in the Census, this year we have the option to identify a relationship as same-sex. Although there is still much work to be done to ensure that the Census properly counts gender identity and sexual orientation of all individuals, it's our responsibility to take the opportunity we have now and build on it in our continued push for justice and equality.

To our cis and straight allies, we are also counting on you to help in our fight for social justice and equity. In addition to experiencing higher rates of homelessness, queer individuals are also disproportionately likely to rely on programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAP ). About one out of every five same-sex households relies on SNAP funding to feed their families. The census determines how much funding each state gets for SNAP, and people who are living in our communities aren't filling out the census, there will be less funding going to support LGBTQ individuals and families who are relying on these vital programs to put food on the table every week.

It only takes 10 minutes to advocate for resources for our communities! I encourage everyone to go to to get counted today, and to engage your networks, friends, family and colleagues to share information about the census.

Grace Yao is an adult education transition specialist and LGBTQ navigator with the Chinese Mutual Aid Association.

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