Law and Sexuality

A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests

How do you count a homosexual?

No, really.  How do you count a homosexual?  It’s a question that lawyers and folks at the UC Census Bureau will have to get to grips with following the announcement that they had formed the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.  Gay Star News reported that: ‘Every 10 years, the US government attempts to count the number of its citizens (it’s a requirement of the Constitution). In the next calculating, held in 2020, there might be an attempt to officially count members of the LGBT community.’

They also noted that: ‘Joining the committee will be Shane Snowdon, the head the LGBT Health and Aging Program of the Human Rights Campaign (the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the US). Previously, she was the founding director of the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for LGBT Health and Equity.’

So whilst it remains unclear what questions will be asked, it looks as if the survey may well for the first time get to grips with surveying the LGBT population.  West Wing fans will recall an episode in which Sam explains to CJ about the US census and its importance.

There does however remain the question of what you count.  Do you for example count those who declare themselves ‘gay’.  Do we have distinct categories for ‘queer’ and ‘lesbian’ too?  Is the queer identity merged with ‘gay’ when it comes to interpreting the data?  Is the sexuality question considered separately from gender (and assuming a binary gender categorisation is used), do we then have ‘male’ lesbians’ within the survey?  Is that an issue?  How does this address challenges around ethnicity and sexuality?  Should we judge instead on acts?  In which case, would we exclude a celibate homosexual?  What of someone who defines themselves as a heterosexual male, but can often be found with their mouth attached to a strangers penis at the nearest mall?

I have a hunch that some lawyers are about to need a crash course on understanding sexuality.  Contract law only gets you so far…

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One comment on “How do you count a homosexual?

  1. Chris Ashford
    October 15, 2012

    Quite rightly, some also pointed out this morning that bi-identities should also be captured within this data. I should have expressly stated this too 🙂

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This entry was posted on October 15, 2012 by in census, Identity, Law, Politics, sexuality.

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