I recently read an article about why the government cares about the number of Americans who are LGBT. It discussed how having an accurate count of the number of LGBT Americans could expedite changes in military policies, health care, grant funding and more. Important reasons, without question. And it makes perfect sense to me — after all, how can you adequately care for a population without knowing how large that population is?
It also misses a crucial point, in my humble little opinion. Knowing how many of our fellow Americans are part of the LGBT community could mean recognizing that they are not some small, separate, segregated group that’s too inconsequential to matter. Dollars to doughnuts, I’d bet that if there were true, accurate and all-encompassing data available, the numbers of the LGBT community in this country are far greater than anyone realizes. Many of these people have chosen to stay silent for many, many reasons. Fear of discrimination. Fear of alienation. Fear of repercussions from family, friends, employers or places of worship. Fear of being attacked. Fear of being harassed about something as basic as using a bathroom.
Which means that too many of them haven’t felt the luxury of being honest about who they are. Luxury being the operative word there.
How sad is it that anyone in this day and age has to hide who they are for ANY reason? We like to think we’ve come so far as a society–and in many ways we have–but not in this one basic, HUMAN way. What if redheads were ashamed to let people know they had red hair and wore wigs to blend in? What if anyone with brown eyes wore sunglasses simply to hide their eye color because they were ostracized otherwise? These aren’t choices – they’re how we’re born. Those in the LGBT community are no different.
In my last post, I carelessly used the phrase “choose to live an alternative lifestyle.” I was mistaken for phrasing it that way, and I’m grateful a friend pointed it out to me. Those who are lesbian, gay or trans don’t CHOOSE to be so, anymore than I chose to be straight. They are who they are, just as I am. The difference is, I don’t have to hide it. Many of them don’t have that luxury … which is why the numbers that good ol’ Uncle Sam is trying to collect are not likely to be accurate any time soon.
I love that the government is trying to get this data, don’t get me wrong. It’s crucial that those who are LGBT be recognized as a legitimate community, with the same rights and benefits as the rest of us. Having those numbers can go a long way toward making that reality. I just venture a guess that the data the government comes up with won’t be truly representative, because so many people still feel they simply can’t speak up.
To those who do identify as any one of the letters in the LGBT world, my greatest wish is that, some day, you’ll feel the luxury of living your authentic life. If not, I understand why… I’m just so sorry you don’t feel you can. Uncle Sam’s numbers or no, I count you as important. You matter.