Updated 08:52 AM EST, Tue, Mar 02, 2021

Laverne Cox Urges the U.S. Census to Start Counting Transgenders

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With Caitlin Jenner, Laverne Cox, and the Amazon show "Transparent" among their popular representations, the transgender community is steadily letting itself known in the United States. But there's still one glaring fact: little is known about how many trans people are accounted for in the country.

This was the core message of Cox's appearance at the 2015 Social Good Summit in New York on Monday, when she urged the nation's Census Bureau to adjust its forms to count transgender individuals.

"What message are we sending to young people who are trans and gender-nonconforming when we don't even count them? We suggest that their identities don't even matter," the 31-year-old said, as quoted by MTV.

Cox continued, "I was thinking that visibility is only part of the equation. We must have social policy, systemic change. And then I thought about the census. Systemically, this idea of the gender binary is very much institutionalized in the fact that we just don't count trans people."

The "Orange is the New Black" star was in conversation with Shelby Chestnut, co-director of community organizing and public advocacy at the Anti-Violence Project, and Cecilia Chung, senior strategist of the Transgender Law Center, Mashable reported.

Historically, census data is focused on the binary genders: male and female, Mashable wrote. Estimations say that 700,000 U.S. individuals are transgenders, but this number is undeniably faulty.

Gary Gates, an LGBTQ demographer at the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, got the estimations from limited data in California and Massachusetts. But he admitted that the numbers has "substantial limitations, adding that the only way to do better is to use nationwide surveys," the news outlet added.

Monday's panel highlighted the lack of nationwide surveys like the one Gates is pushing for, and the "violence trans people face because of stigma of not being counted as a valuable population," Mashable noted. According to Fusion, there have been 20 transgender women murdered this year.

Chung said on the panel that not counting transgender Americans is a form of violence, Mashable reported. This violence could be attributed to the lack of government support and services.

"No one is actually acknowledging our legitimacy to exist," Chung said, as quoted by the news outlet. She said that if the government wants to better serve its people, it's imperative for them to know who their citizens are.

Chestnut said that collecting data is an important step to stop the violence directed at the transgender community.

"If we really do push this Census data collection, we'll see the systemic issues trans people are facing: housing discrimination, underemployment or employment discrimination, lack of [gender affirming] education," Chestnut continued, as reported by Mashable.

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