SAGE, the advocacy and support group for older LGBT persons, has an interesting discussion about the 2020 Census and what it means to the LGBT community:
For the first time, the 2020 Census will add specific checkboxes for same-sex couples to identify themselves in the question about how each person in the household is related to the person who filled out the questionnaire. The new census form will include separate categories for “opposite-sex” and “same-sex” spouses and unmarried partners.
LGBT older people have fought for their entire lives to have their rights recognized and respected. An accurate census count of LGBT households helps reinforce the idea that LGBT people are a part of every community and are deserving of civil rights, regardless of whom we love or how we identify. SAGE and the Diverse Elders Coalition are committed to ensuring that LGBT communities are counted.
SAGE’s experience with harder-to-reach LGBT elders has revealed that older LGBT people often hold onto misconceptions and mistrust – often a result of the decades of discrimination this population has faced – leading to challenges in engaging this demographic. This mistrust is so ingrained that often LGBT elders will not respond to a knock at their door or open their mail because they, or someone they know, has been the victim of bullying or a scam. If they do open their mail, many will not provide personal information for fear of compromising their privacy.
As a result, when an unknown entity about the Census contacts LGBT elders, they may decline to engage. When they receive an official envelope from the U.S. Census, they may not even open it. SAGE has learned that in order to educate and engage LGBT elders successfully, the information must come from a trusted source, like SAGE. Resources encouraging participation in the Census must also reflect LGBT identities so that this community feels welcomed and invited to respond.