Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul worries about queerly and correctly answering questions on the US Census.
For the first time in my life, I had a difficult time with the US Census. Don’t get me wrong—I fully understand the importance of standing up and being counted. But something has changed in my life in the last 10 years that make answering the simple questions, well, problematic.
Right up front, I should admit that I have a tendency to overanalyze seemingly straightforward questions. Many years ago in Dallas when I went to see a new therapist, she asked me to answer a series of test questions to determine if I was playing with a full deck. This True/False question had me stumped: “I believe things are turning out the way the prophets in the Bible said they would.” With little religious training, I had no idea what the prophets said. So what if things were turning out the way they said and I just didn’t know it? Did that make me crazy or just unaware? The doctor realized she had her work cut out for her.
For this decade’s Census, Chef and I received 2 Census forms because technically we two separate one-bedroom apartments in our Washington Heights brownstone. We decided against each filling out a separate form so that we could mark our relationship as “unmarried partners.” Incidentally, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who are working with me on the Alphabet City Book Tour, has an entire campaign to QueerTheCensus including pink stickers!
Then Questions 1 and 2 sent me into a tizzy. “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?” Never mind my issues about mobile homes or our little dog Frida whom I believe probably should be counted as our child. I’ve got an in-laws problem. Every other year they travel from Mexico during something called “Holy Week” (there’s that Bible reference again) and set-up shop in our house. At this point, I can no longer hide from Chef how agitated I have become over the form.
“Honey, do you think the US government really wants us to count the Mexican contingent just because they camp out here on April Fools’ Day?”
“Probably not. You need to relax about this,” he advises.
Everything was going fine until Question 8, something I never much thought about until I became part of a cross-cultural couple since the last Census—“Is the person of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?”
“Honey, the government wants to know exactly what kind of Latin you are.”
Chef considers the question for a moment, then smiles and says with a snap,
Any day now I am expecting a follow-up visit from a confused Census Bureau, which will make me tickled pink.