In the United States, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has led efforts to push the government to adopt changes to the national census in ways that better reflect the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities through its "Queer the Census" project.
A U.S. House of Representatives panel took up the issue back in March but it still seems like an uphill battle ("House panel hears about adding LGBT to census survey", The Bay Area Reporter, March 15, 2012). The idea is that with better data about who we are as a community, government will be able to provide better services.
It's a battle being fought in other parts of the American continent as well. This might not be a comprehensive listing but it's a sample of similar efforts taking place throughout Latin America.
- Argentina: Passage of a federal marriage equality law in Argentina in 2010 forced the National Census to incorporate questions about same-sex partnership households. Perhaps among the most progressive of census agencies in the world, Argentina also allows transgender individuals to register with their current gender and name even if it's not reflected in their birth certificates or government ID's.
- Bolivia: In 2011, the Bolivian Ministry of Justice announced that the 2012 census would include specific questions about sexual identity and whether a census taker was lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
- Brazil: In 2010, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics announced it would survey and record data about same-sex partners.
- Colombia: Although it has yet to adopt progressive LGBT policies when it comes to the national census, in 2011 the Colombian government announced it would survey prisoners as to whether they identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. Some LGBT advocates raised alarms about the potential for violence should a person's sexual identity be exposed in a general prison setting but the National Penitentiary and Jail Institute insisted the measure would help them to safeguard the safety of every LGBTI person in the system.
- Cuba: Influential gay blogger Francisco Ródriguez, who blogs as Paquito el de Cuba, has mounted a personal campaign to have the National Office of Statistics and Information include questions in the 2012 census that would give visibility to the LGBT community in the Caribbean island. Ródriguez says that internal documents and conversations show that the Cuban government is very much interested in instituting these changes but, as of February, he lamented that the Cuban government was being less than forthcoming as to whether they would adopt these changes.
- Venezuela: In 2010, the Venezuelan National Statistics Institute eliminated an "error" message that appeared whenever a census participant tried to register having a same-sex partner at the request of LGBT-rights organization Unión Afirmativa. It's one of the few positive developments when it comes to LGBT rights under the Hugo Chávez mandate but, officially, same-sex couples in Venezuela can register their partnership in the national census surveys.
The Homosexual Liberation Movement (MOVILH) has worked closely with the current center-right Chilean government of Sebastian Piñera to improve the way the Chilean census reflects the reality of the LGBT community. Although not as progressive as the census changes in Bolivia and Argentina, in 2011 the Chilean government announced that it would survey the number of same-sex partnerships in the country.
Today, the MOVILH launched a national campaign urging same-sex couples to register as such in the 2012 census under the theme of "Acknowledge the other half of your orange" ("Tu media naranja" or "Your half orange" is a common term of endearment used in Latin America to refer to one's partner).
The campaign includes a stand alone interactive site and an amazing Census 2012 video which I have taken the liberty of translating.
Here it is in full:
- Opinion: Do gay people count? (The American Prospect, April 27, 2012)