In a last-minute bid to boost Census participation in the LGBTQ community, the city’s Census leaders have kicked off a new campaign featuring one drag artist from each borough in a competition to see who can generate the most responses during the final days of the count.
The campaign, dubbed “Counting All Queens,” was unveiled in a press conference at Queens Borough Hall on September 22. The competition officially launched on September 23.
The effort was focused on the September 30 deadline imposed by the Trump administration, though on September 24 a federal judge in California ruled that the Census count must continue through October 31. Attorney General William Barr, widely considered to have turned the Justice Department into a political arm of the White House, is expected to appeal.
City launches late bid to drive participation as federal court orders Trump to stick with original October 31 deadline
The drag artists will use their social media platforms to spread the word, and whoever generates the most responses in the next week will become the “Census Queen” on October 1 — whether or not the city is able to continue the tally beyond that date.
Godiva Romance will represent the Bronx, Ruby Roo will focus on Brooklyn, Pixie Aventura will be rallying support in Manhattan, Audrey Phoenix will compete for Queens, and Britney Virazzano will participate on behalf of Staten Island.
The competitors were joined at Queens Borough Hall by a handful of elected officials, including out gay Queens Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Queens State Senator Jessica Ramos, who underscored the impact of the Census on representation in government and the way the Census drives the allocation of funds in local communities.
Van Bramer recalled his own rise to elected office and pointed to the three centuries that passed by in Queens before there was out queer representation in government.
“It was hundreds of years of queer people working and contributing, but not getting the resources and getting their tax dollares reinvested into the community at all,” Van Bramer said. “But we’re changing that.”
He added, “Everyone, regardless of how you identify, is an equal and valued member of this community. It took us 300 years to get out queer representation and we will never allow ourselves to go a day in the future without that representation.”
Marti Gould Cummings, an out LGBTQ 2021 City Council candidate in Manhattan, delivered fiery remarks as they emphasized the joint effort to encourage participation in the Census to steer necessary funds to communities in need and to mobilize voters to oust Donald Trump on November 3.
“We need funding, we need representation in Congress that will fight for us, and today we have an administration that is bigoted, they are transphobic, xenophobic, and misogynistic,” Cummings said. “They want to take the rights away of everybody who is not a wealthy white man. Bullshit! Enough!”
Cummings called on everyone to remind five friends to fill out the Census and to ask those five friends to also ask five others to do the same.
Godiva Romance drilled the message that the Census can be completed in a matter of minutes — and that those responses can leave a lasting impact on the community for years to come.
“New Yorkers are strong, to say the least, but this means so much more — to give us an opportunity to make New York a better place for our future generation,” Godiva Romance said. “Ten questions, 10 minutes could impact the next 10 years… Because we pay taxes here, you deserve a right to be heard.”
Multiple speakers sought to quell fears in immigrant communities by issuing reminders to the public that the Census does not ask participants about their immigration status.
“When this queen brings all the queens to Queens to count all the queens (and not just in Queens) you know we’re stopping nothing short of ‘legendary,’ as we are calling on all LGBTQ+ New Yorkers, including those of us who are immigrants, trans, non-binary, or those who cannot vote, to reclaim the money, power, and respect that are rightfully guaranteed to us by the Constitution by simply participating in the Census,” Amit Singh Bagga, the deputy director of the city’s Census effort, said in a written statement.
The city’s self-response rate was just 60.2 percent, six points below the national average of 66.2 percent just one week before the Census was slated to end, albeit early, on September 30 — a full month before it was originally scheduled to be completed, due to an edict out of the Trump administration.
In a related effort, the city’s Census team also launched another competition, “Battle of the Boroughs,” that will be similar to the “Counting All Queens” competition but is far broader. That competition is between every borough, and the borough with the most responses overall at the end of the week will be declared the winner.
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