When “Counting” Means More than Numbers

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.




8 thoughts on “When “Counting” Means More than Numbers

  1. Being counted has always worked against the LGBTQ community in many ways. From the earliest days of the so-called Gay Rights Movement, gays were urge to come out and put a public face to personalize our quest for equal rights. That bit of public relations never succeeded in gaining us acceptance. But until the day when no count whatsoever is necessary to guarantee equal justice for all, I will not trust our government to count any group of people under the guise of benign intentions. Advertisers already have a pretty good idea who and how large the LGBTQ demographic is. Call me paranoid, but LGBTQ folks come by such “mistrust” naturally. Yes, it would be a luxury to some of us to be able to stand tall and be counted. But trusting in a welcoming, helpful government database of any minority is counterintuitive to me and a luxury we cannot afford. This child of the 60s will always “question authority”.


    • I completely understand where you’re coming from, Jerry, and I don’t think you’re paranoid at all. I just hate that there is any need for mistrust and yet I get it. I really do. I wish I could do more than gripe about it on here. At least those who read this blog know there’s someone that doesn’t judge or fear the LGBT community. Hugs!


    • I couldn’t agree more, Jerry. The numbers don’t matter – the acceptance does. I could only hope that if we knew how large the LGBTQ actually is, perhaps people would understand it’s not a select few but actually composed of a much larger number of their friends and family … And perhaps be a bit more accepting when they can link a loved one’s name to it.


  2. Thanks Lynn for having the conversation. I have many LBGT people that I call friends. That is the key word they are people and have the same right to privacy that the rest of us do. Do the numbers really matter? What is the tipping point as far as the government is concerned? What will it take? Does the total mean anything? As you say the numbers will be skewed no matter. I support my friends and their choice whatever that may be.


    • I wonder, too, Liz. What difference do the numbers mean? And why do we need to know? But I’m glad to have the chance to voice my support here for my friends and those I don’t know yet. 🙂 Thanks for being part of it!


    • Yes, Liz, you are right! They have a right to privacy for sure, and to me the bigger question is, why does the total matter? I just pray for acceptance for them, whether there are three members of the community or 3 million. Every one of them counts.


  3. I don’t understand why it would be anyone’s business how many. Why? Will there be an extra tax refund? Special car lanes? Shouldn’t we also be counting how many Catholics/Jews/Muslims/Wickans/etc.? It’s bad enough they count how many of what race, when most everyone is some combination of races and in the future will most likely be a lot more. None of it matters. THAT’S the point.

    This reminds me of when they study an intersection where deadly accidents continue to happen. How many must be killed before they put a light or improve the road? It should be enough to recognize/know there is a problem that needs intervention/laws. You don’t need to know how many because ONE is too many.


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