The counting of LGBT Charlotte isn’t complete

Editor's Note

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: July 21, 2012 in Editor's Note

In this special issue, qnotes takes an in-depth look at our hometown as we roll out our “InFocus: Charlotte” edition taking a indepth look at the local diversity and flavor that makes our city special and beautiful. Additionally, we’ve got community resource listings including everything from social and support groups to nightlife and faith congregations. Thanks to the generous support of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, we are able to bring you these exciting features on our Queen City, kindly and sweetly bundled together for you in one nice package.

One of these features is a slight follow-up on a story we published in March 2010 ahead of that year’s national census. At the time, we delved into numbers from the census 10 years prior, finding that Charlotte’s 28205 ZIP code had the highest number of same-sex couples than any other ZIP code across the state.

Starting in 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking the number of households with unmarried same-sex partners. That same data was tracked in 2010 and provides a glimpse into the geography of LGBT life in the U.S. and locally.

Ten years after the 2000 census, East Charlotte still leads the pack, but other parts of the city — portions of the South Blvd. corridor, the Steele Creek area and the Providence/Ballantyne area — also have high concentrations of same-sex couple households, as well.

The concentrations of same-sex households in Charlotte take on an interesting geographic shape. Stretching from East Charlotte up to NoDa, through Uptown and a slight move into West Charlotte, the distribution of gay families then spreads southward, moving down and out along South Blvd. and I-485.

Other cities have one “gayborhood.” Some have two. Charlotte has many. NoDa, Plaza-Midwood and other parts of East Charlotte might come out on top, but other popular areas of the city are nipping at their heels. It all goes to show, at least in part, that gay folks aren’t necessarily immune to changes in neighborhood demographics and dynamics. Ten years ago, East Charlotte still had some of its unique swagger left. The snapshot in time that was the 2000 census didn’t take into account the sweeping changes the Eastside would experience in the short few years to follow. No doubt, gay folk were not immune to the changes, finding themselves culling new and more areas of the city “home.”

But the census numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story. In neither the census nor their American Community Survey does the U.S. Census Bureau include demographic questions on sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, there’s no way to track how many LGBT people actually live in the U.S. or track the places and neighborhoods they call home. It’s an unfortunate reality that leaves people like me and a whole slew of friends uncounted when demographers, media and community members start talking about gayborhoods and gay demographics.

Take, for instance, my own neighborhood. Windsor Park sits adjacent to Country Club Heights, a neighborhood with one of the highest concentrations of same-sex couples in the city. Windsor Park itself has a fairly large number of same-sex couples. But, the current counting scheme will never do neighborhoods like mine justice. They do not count me or at least a dozen other single LGBT people whom I personally know live there.

The U.S. government’s decision not to count all self-identified LGBT people is an injustice and disservice. The census bureau’s current policies must be changed and groups like the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and their “Queer the Census” initiative (queerthecensus.org) are working to create a more LGBT-inclusive count of American citizens and residents.

“Without data that identifies the LGBT community, LGBT people are invisible in the eyes of our government,” the national group says. I agree.

Just this past March, advocates testified before a House subcommittee on the importance of adding LGBT demographic questions to the U.S. Census and its annual community surveys. By 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will begin asking about sexual orientation on its National Health Interview Survey. What’s good for one government agency should be good enough for another, but researchers like the Williams Institute’s Gary Gates say the census bureau likely won’t consider real changes until 2017.

By the time our next decennial census rolls around, odds are several more states will have legalized marriage for same-sex couples. It might even be possible that marriage equality is the law of the land for all Americans. And, if it all should come to pass, there’s no reason why the government can’t count both married and unmarried queer folk. It’s the right thing to do and the only way LGBT people will ever truly be visible. Simply put, unless we are counted, we don’t really count. : :