Father Tony

What Ten Percent Looks Like

Filed By Father Tony | January 25, 2010 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: gay census

This is what the new census might reveal. I performed this visual exercise with conflicting feelings about the fact that Florida's Broward County has begun a census that asks questions about the sexual orientation of households. It's good to be counted. It is bad to give hateful government that much information ammunition. Also, if we decide to avoid identifying our households as gay, the government will report that we are not so large a portion of the general population after all, and this would be used against us. Damned if we do, damned if we don't. Also, those who are closeted will remain uncounted.

I'm coming to the conclusion that asking census questions about sexual orientation may be a very dangerous misstep. Our advocacy organizations should be protesting this rather than endorsing it.

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What is the stated purpose of the Broward County census?
Has the county ever done this before?
Whose idea was it to include the sexual orientation question?
What other personal information is requested?
Are their civil or criminal penalties for not answering, or not truthfully answering?

Is this 100% separate from the federal census required by the US Constitution?

If it is any consolation, Father Tony, our opponents are just as schizophrenic on this issue as we are --- that is why they want to suppress public access to the R71 signatures in Washington state.

Empower yourself politically and sign the petition (or census form) ... but be secret about it, because your opponents might target you.

Now how effective can that be?

I'm sorry Tony, but I have to call you out on this one...

This post is just about as reactionary and fear-mongering as it gets. Are you serious or just looking to get a reaction?

Following your same logic, citizens shouldn't write their government representatives over issues because then the government will know. It precludes telling personal stories - you know the stories legislators use to form their opinions and shape their votes - to anyone remotely attached with the government.

Also, you'd better not donate to any LGBT causes or go to any LGBT establishments unless you use only cash - the government can take your bank records and credit card records anytime they want.

Oh, you should also not subscribe to LGBT magazines...Those come directly to your house and the government might raid the Advocate offices just to see who the queers are.

And imagine what Google knows about you and the porn you look at...You'd better not watch any porn or look at any LGBT websites or they can track your IP and get your address from your ISP. Oh, too late - you have your face plastered all over this website. You're screwed.

Come ON. This is just conspiratorial nonsense. Are you Mel Gibson now?

This is a local census and could be different, but shouldn't be confused with the US Census in which data is anonymized and cannot be connected directly to you as a person. (Yes, cross-referencing is possible, but that kind of thing is ALREADY possible.)

It's tragic that this kind of bad information and fear is still pervasive. This kind of data is way too important to collect to see it hampered by this silliness.

Come on, Tony, you sound like a teabagger, afraid of your own elected government. Get over it: out of the closets, into the streets, ya know? Gays have never, ever been counted in a census, it's about damn time we were. So we know and everybody else knows how many of us there are . . . at least the ones who admit it.

You can't base informed policy decisions on myths and suppositions. Truth is always better than ignorance, let the chips fall where they may.

And yes if you are wondering about a rightwing takeover of the federal government in some dark apocalyptic future time, they could use that information to round us all up, I suppose.

But hell, they could do that anyway just by checking what the Homeland Security dept. already knows about every citizen's internet history, right? All those gay porn sites traced back to our computers . . . who needs a census? Grin.

I didn't know there were going to be sexual orientation quetsions in the census. I thought they were asking about relationship status with people of the same sex, which isn't quite the same thing.

This has to be local, Alex. The US Census does not ask about SO or GI. So, it can be a census, but it's not the US Census doing this. That should the focus of this article - the fact that there is only one US Census and those forms have not yet been mailed.

There is no real or compelling reason for a local government to conduct its own Census, in my opinion. The US Census Bureau publishes 100% of its data and every municipality has complete access to this data.

Regardless, some localities like to go beyond the demographic breakdowns of what the US Census records and they tack onto the hype that comes with the US Census. Other times, you get tricksters - like the Republican party who just put out their own "Census" form that is made to look semi-official and its really just a fundraising tool.

I think it is irresponsible not to differentiate between the official US Census and all of these other efforts. The US Census is vital and a truly legitimate function of the government. Too much depends on the accuracy of the results of the US Census to let rumors, innuendo, false information and conspiracy theories deter people from participating.

Fill out the census. TELL!! The 65,000 LGBT figure came about because of the last census and we know there are that many lesbians alone in the Army.;) So PLEASE...for our equality TELL!!!

Our opponents have skillfully diminished our numbers to diminish our rights. "Why give 'special rights' to 2-3% percent of the population?" We are 10-15% of the American population and we had better stand up and be counted as a political powerful voting block.

I am not afraid or ashamed!!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 25, 2010 9:19 PM

Fear or shame or "out of the closets" or whatever there is a ton of information out there. On one level I have never cared, but I am not a family raising kids either.

Right now you can pull up a map just like this one for child sex offenders that includes mug shots so that you can check out who among your neighbors has an abuse history...and that is for all time.

At what point does a computer byte of information translate into harm to an individual? I think Fr. Tonys point is that we do not yet know. We do not know how it could be used by a bank, an employer or credit rating agency. The technology is well ahead of the law and that leads to a lack of protections and no expectation of privacy.

It would take a hell of a lot more than not filling out a Census form to have any real expectation of privacy these days. Unless you don't go online, don't have a bank account, don't have a car, don't pay with anything other than cash, and don't ever get a job, a mortgage, or any sort of health care.

The truth is that privacy doesn't mean that your information isn't available - it's that it cannot be abused or used in ways that are counter to the constitutional protections for life, liberty and property.

Does anyone REALLY believe that by not filling out a Census form the government couldn't find every bit of that information out about you anyway? Do you really believe, other than the mass number of people involved, it would be all that hard?

There is little to nothing on a true and proper US Census form that the government doesn't have a legitimate reason to know. Fear of filling out the form costs every one of us in terms of proper representation and apportionment and distribution of funds.

Can the information be abused? Sure - but you know what? You give more information that is infinitely more abusable to your bank, to your credit card company and even to the almighty Google. None of these companies have any compelling interest to use your information for good, yet we don't think at all when we swipe our credit or debit card, write a check, or search for "naked dwarf wrestling" on the Google.

A healthy democracy needs to know the number and makeup of its citizenry. Even the founders, who were motivated immensely to prevent an over-reaching, abusive government, saw fit to enshrine a census into the Constitution.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 26, 2010 10:06 PM

The census was originally provided to allot seats in the house of representatives. It has morphed into a connection with entitlements.

There is no privacy any more. We're being counted in one way or another by the government already - you can be sure of that. How many LGBT groups have been the subject of probes by Homeland Security or the FBI over the years?

If we're going to constantly be classified by the government, we should help mold it into something useful by our side. By being counted, we're able to gain better recognition as a voting block too - not something to sneeze at the next time Broward County is considering some form of LGBT legislation.

Wow, Tony. Not sure when you started channeling Michelle Bachman...

As a Broward County resident, the only thing I can think of that FT is referring to is called "The Count"- and online survey of LGBT folks in the county put on by the LGBt Community Center:


from their site:

THE COUNT is a first ever comprehensive web based census and needs assessment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community in Broward.


The data and statistics from THE COUNT will be used by local government agencies, health and human service providers and LGBTQ organizations to:

• Increase the awareness of the needs of the LGBTQ Community.
• Affect public policy on quality of life issues.
• Indentify gaps in services for the LGBTQ Community.
• Provide resources for program development and funding for the LGBTQ Community.


If you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender or questioning, your participation in this census will be crucial in insuring our voices are heard and will help to improve the quality of life for yourself and all LGBTQ persons in Broward County.

It's just a raw numbers survey. They aren't mapping out where we live or coming to our house to paint a pink triangle on our door. It called statistics.

And they are very important for the reasons they specified- political influence, LGBT services and awareness, etc.

I'm more than a little shocked at the tone and the rather disingenuous way you painted an intra-community driven survey.

Someone get out the teabags!

Speak the truth and shame the devil.

Dear Waymon,

Last year, I interviewed the gentleman managing that census and the now-defunct South Florida Blade published my report about it. A report that concluded with an endorsement of participation.

Since then, I've had some obvious second thoughts and hesitation.

In the interesting and illuminating comment string above (exactly what I was hoping for in producing a very brief post about a multifaceted subject) one aspect of the matter has not yet been mentioned, so I'll do it here. I don't think any census ought to refer to anything regarding sexuality in which words make implications that may be false. For instance, we have today received reports of two men (both born women) who are about to give birth to a child. Exactly how is a census going to handle that adequately when even within our own ranks we spend endless hours squabbling about what or who constitutes a real man or a woman. When I apply defining questions to my own "self", the chafing begins. I'm not 100% gay. And my neighbors are not 100% straight. We have preferences that can change with the moon and the tides and the hours. Also, a label implies sexual activities that are not always accurate. The double male household ten floors below me share a sex life that I would not touch with Bea Arthur's dick. I don't want any census even implying any similarities between their bed and mine.

In Broward, those taking the referenced count also admit that the huge reality of "snowbirds" and closets will render the data less than accurate (as in very inaccurate?)

Let's not be too PollyAnna about this business. There are some harsh realities at the end of your rainbow flag, Waymon. I was in government (community development) for 25 years. I never met a statistic that could not be written into a song that someone controlling a budget wanted to hear. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but I wrote enough of those songs to fill a hit parade bigger than Paul Simon's.

Let the census count heads. We all have those, albeit in some cases they seem vestigial....

Oh, Tony. You still sound like a teabagger. Do you prefer Earl Grey or Lady Grey? I'll send you a box.

You do realize that the reason there IS a decennial Census is BECAUSE people's circumstances change, right? Yes, there are such outlying possibilities that a person could identify as gay during one Census and straight during another, but guess what - you'll probably get the reverse on that too. So in the end, it will mostly balance out. Law of large numbers and all....

Also, no label can ever contain any of us - that's why the Census asks so many questions. If you follow your logic above, in that you don't want to be marked with the sexual habits of your neighbors, then you'd better not check off "male" on the form either because that will lump you in with nearly 150 million men, most of whom are straight and many of whom have sexual peccadilloes that would make your skin crawl.

As I said in a previous response - the need for this information far outweighs the potential for abuse. ALL information has the potential for abuse. You give far more damaging and abusable information to various different sources every single day of your life. This is a red herring.

Yeah, I'm with ya. My concern is less with surveillance/loss of privacy than it is with a government agency getting involved with describing (and prescribing) our sexuality. We have enough trouble within our own communities agreeing on what words like "gay" mean.