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The Importance of Being Counted (Thanks, John Cena)

John Cena
John Cena

A new public service announcement reminds us that numbers matter.

"Love has no labels" sounds like a good maxim -- but when you're a member of a marginalized group that needs visibility, it can be a double-edged sword.

For the Fourth of July, the Ad Council released a video starring pro wrestler and reality TV personality John Cena, touting the inclusive message that patriotism means loving all Americans, no matter what their differences.

He does note that labels are worthwhile. "We know that labels don't devalue us, they help define us, keeping us dialed into our beliefs and who we are as Americans," he says. "After all, what's more American than the freedom to celebrate what makes us us?"

He also makes the important point that no one should be judged for their labels. Patriotism, he says, means "love beyond age, disability, sexuality, race, religion, and any other labels, because the second we judge anybody based on those labels, we're not really being patriotic, are we?"

LGBT people certainly know the importance of not being judged, and they know as well the importance of embracing labels, of being out and proud. In the video, Cena says 9 million Americans identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and that's in keeping with last year's estimate by the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

But that number may creep up a bit with new Williams Institute data estimating that 1.4 million American adults identify as transgender, double the number previously estimated, and representing 0.6 percent of the U.S. population. The report, which came out last week, drew on a larger data set than previous ones.

"The findings from this study are critical to current policy discussions that impact transgender people," said Jody Herman, one of the authors of the study, in a press release. "Policy debates on access to bathrooms, discrimination, and a host of other issues should rely on the best available data to assess potential impacts, including how many people may be affected."

And demographer Gary Gates, a former Williams Institute research director, further underlined the importance of numbers, telling The New York Times, "There's a saying: 'You don't count in policy circles until someone counts you.'"

So the best advice appears to be: Don't judge or discriminate based on people's labels -- but embrace your own so policy makers and everyone else will know you matter.

Watch the Ad Council video below.

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