We could have had it as a census question decades ago, and we almost had it on the 2020 Census, but then Trump happened. Now, maybe, finally, more than 50 years after the movement began for LGBTQ civil rights, the U.S. Census Bureau is moving ahead with adding long-overdue questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.

It is insane that the U.S. Census has never adequately counted the number of Americans who identify as gay, let alone the panoply of orientations and gender identities that younger generations now accept as the norm. But after a near-miss in getting a sexual orientation question on the 2020 Census that outraged the LGBTQ+ community, it may finally be happening on both the annual American Community Survey (ACS) and the decennial census.

The Census Bureau is a government agency, so of course this is still going to be an arduous process. Here it is 2024, and earlier this month the Bureau announced that it was seeking public comment on a "test" of gender and sexual orientation questions.

"As part of the process for adding new questions to the ACS, the Census Bureau tests potential questions to evaluate the quality of the data collected. The Census Bureau proposes testing questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to meet the needs of other federal agencies that have expressed interest in or have identified legal uses for the information, such as enforcing civil rights and equal employment measures," the agency said in its announcement.

The new questions would only pertain to household members 15 years old and up, the Census Bureau says.

Public comment is being accepted online here, through May 30.

As the Orange County Register notes this week, the public comment period is "a formal step in what typically is a multi-year process before adding new questions to an upcoming census."

After first appearing on the American Community Survey, we should likely see new questions about gender identity and sexual orientation on the 2030 Census — unless, of course, Republicans step in to try to deny the existence or importance of LGBTQ+ people again.

While we have never had a vetted number from the Census Bureau on the number of Americans who identify as gay, bisexual, or anything besides male or female, other organizations have attempted to fill the void with their own research. One of those organizations is the Blachford-Cooper Research Center at the Williams Institute, a non-profit at UCLA Law School, which for years has published its own numbers for the LGBTQ population for use in public policy.

“Having a top-line number from the census will help paint a more complete picture,” said Kerith Conron, director of the center, speaking to the OC Register.

The only numbers we have had from the American Community Survey are for same-sex couples who share a household — numbers that do not count the majority of LGBTQ individuals who are single.

According to a December 2023 report from the Williams Institute, 13.9 million Americans over the age of 13 identify as LGBT, and a majority of them reside in the South. 5.1% of California's population is LGBT, the report says, while 7.8% of Oregon's population and 6.9% of Washington State's population are LGBT. And no state had an LGBT percentage below 4%, with Mississippi's being the lowest at 4.1%.

The highest concentration that report found was in Washington D.C., where over 14% of the population identifies as LGBT.

"Any kind of inclusivity is welcome. Visibility is always good," said Manny Muro, vice president of OC Pride, speaking to the OC Register. "There hasn’t been an accurate count of our community for years, maybe ever. And having this, in the Census, will help make sure that federal dollars aimed at fighting discrimination, and helping people in need, won’t ignore us. We’ll see where this takes us."

Previously: Seattle Tops S.F. In Census of Percent of Gay Couples, But We're Still Tops For Gay Men

Photo: Mercedes Mehling