We Count: Why Data Matters More Than Ever For LGBTQ People

We Count: Why Data Matters More Than Ever For LGBTQ People
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This week it was announced that the 2020 Census will not include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Later John H. Thompson, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, released a statement saying that after review “there was no federal data need to change the planned census.” This couldn’t be more inaccurate. Collecting this information would have been monumental for the LGBTQ anti-violence movement and not collecting it sends a clear message that the needs and experiences of LGBTQ communities should remain invisible.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) understands this first hand as we have been collecting data on how hate violence and intimate partner violence impacts LGBTQ and HIV affected communities for the last 20 years. The coalition started to collect and publish this data because at that time there was nearly no data on the violence that LGBTQ people experienced and the violence that LGBTQ people experienced was rendered invisible.

By collecting and publishing this data, NCAVP was able to show that thousands of LGBTQ people experience violence every year. We found that LGBTQ people are not only experiencing violence at the hands of strangers, but also in schools, workplaces, housing, and by intimate partners. And that LGBTQ people who have been forced to the margins, such as people of color, undocumented communities, and communities with disabilities, experience unique forms of violence, and that we must center and lift up these communities in our work.

We are often asked how collecting data, or lack thereof, on LGBTQ communities impacts the ways that LGBTQ people experience violence, and the short answer is that it impacts everything. Data collection and the information gleaned is how resources get allocated on the federal and state level. Without better data collection, it’s difficult to advocate for the needs of the LGBTQ community. This means less resources for LGBTQ programs that work on housing, employment discrimination, educational programs, and providing services to LGBTQ survivors of violence.

Having information on the ways that LGBTQ people are impacted by violence, poverty, homelessness, and discrimination helps lawmakers to understand the imperative need for legislative protections for their most vulnerable constituents.

As of now, the only piece of federal legislation that includes explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people is the 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. That’s it. This historic inclusion was in large part a result of data that demonstrated how LGBTQ people are disproportionately impacted by both sexual and domestic violence and that LGBTQ survivors often experience discrimination when trying to access services. All other federal level protections exist in the form of regulations, guidance, and executive orders, and these are currently being targeted by the Trump Administration. Moreover, in the last few years we have seen hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills in states across the country, most often geared at taking away the rights of transgender communities.

This state sanctioned discrimination against transgender people is occurring while a deadly crisis of anti-transgender violence is gaining momentum. In 2016, we saw this highest number of homicides of transgender people ever reported by the coalition. And this year, we have already lost eight transgender women of color.

Having more data and information on the need for protections for LGBTQ communities can help advocates and lawmakers keep the few protections we have in place and push for further legislative actions. Having more data and information means more resources for LGBTQ communities and organizations. More resources and protections can save lives.

Now more than ever, we need to be lifting up and sharing the experiences of LGBTQ people, including the ways that LGBTQ communities experience violence. This is why 11 organizations came together to create Communities Against Hate, which collects stories on the ways that marginalized communities experience violence and connects survivors to legal and other supportive services.

If the Trump administration won’t be bothered to collect information on the experiences LGBTQ communities and try to silence us in the process, we’ll just keep having to do it ourselves. We will ensure that our lives and experiences count.

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