About one in 25 people in the United States identify as LGBTQ. However, the exact number has never been known because the U.S. Census does not explicitly ask about sexual orientation. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. and Tom Carper, D-Del. introduced legislation earlier this year to include LGBTQ-related questions on the approaching 2020 census. But the 2020 census will not explicitly ask respondents if they are part of the LGBTQ community and that lack of information will massively hurt the community.
Aside from the simple disrespect of not being recognized unless in a same-sex marriage, not counting LGBTQ Americans is problematic because the government will lack the data to properly allocate resources to support the LGBTQ community.
This problem is not exclusive to the federal government, as GW also does not collect data on sexual orientation. GW should collect critical data to learn how many of its students are part of the LGBTQ community so administrators can properly allocate resources for the school’s LGBTQ students.
The Office of Institutional Research and Planning collects and publishes enrollment data with demographic information about race, gender and nationality. In higher education, few institutions collect data on LGBTQ students. Out of GW’s 12 peer schools, only Tufts University collects data regarding sexuality. Despite the fact that this is not a popular practice, it is essential that GW knows how many LGBTQ students it serves so it can properly dispense resources to a community that is already chronically underserved.
What makes this lack of representation so problematic is that GW is known for having a large LGBTQ population. GW houses one of the few chapters of Delta Lambda Phi, a fraternity for gay, bisexual, transgender and progressive men, and has a strong reputation as an LGBTQ-friendly school. Failing to recognize this group could mean resources won’t be properly allocated based on the number of students. If GW has a concrete number of queer students on campus, it could allocate funds with a more informed view of need on campus.
For example, GW could appoint special staff at the Colonial Health Center to alleviate the chronically under-serviced medical care available to the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Watch argues that the LGBTQ community is medically underserved as there is a national lack of health care professionals with the sensitivity training needed to properly treat LGBTQ patients. With information about how much of its student population is LGBTQ, GW could better arm the CHC with more informed staff members.
Additionally, if the University knew how many LGBTQ students attended GW, and made that information public, it could prompt the Student Association to allocate more funds to student organizations that cater to the LGBTQ community, like Allied in Pride. No wise decisions about financing can be made while being ignorant to how many students need these services, but GW can help by collecting this information.
This could also help certain organizations, specifically the Multicultural Student Services Center and the LGBTQIA Resource Center, because they would have a better understanding of how much of this population they are serving and work to assist more individuals if that number is low.
GW should conduct research to ensure that it knows the full and intersectional demographics of its student population. The University has the campus, culture and ability to become a leader in serving LGBTQ students by starting this cutting edge practice. Conducting formal data collection about how many LGBTQ students attend the University will advance this goal and serve as a model for how other universities should treat, count and serve their LGBTQ students.
Jack Murphy, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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