Census 2018 and Gender Identity

Statistics NZ are considering including a question on gender identity in the next census. This is great! What’s not so great is their current recommendation is to exclude it on the basis that it could be a confusing question, because to most people the distinction between sex and gender is confusing.

Here’s the wording:

Due to a lack of a classification, we have not tested possible questions on gender identity. Whether a standalone question would work on a self-completed form such as the census is not well understood. People may confuse or not understand the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ which are conceptually different, and not interchangeable.

Stats are important. They’re incredibly useful for advocacy work. The Youth12 data has been incredibly useful to many of us for pushing for a hard line. They tell us that our trans and gender diverse youth are suffering from mental illness, self-harm, suicide, bullying, abuse. We’re able to put this data to universities, schools, and other institutions to prove to them that they need to do better.

That’s why I’m upset about this. The Youth12 data was helpful but this would be an even bigger step forward. Having relatively concrete data on the amount of trans and gender diverse people in the country would help significantly for many advocates pushing on the government and NGOs for change. Letting that go just because the question may cause confusion seems a weak response compared to the potential improvement in living conditions and the lives saved.

So I’m going to be pushing for this to be changed on the Census’ Loomio, and I ask that others do too.

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2 thoughts on “Census 2018 and Gender Identity

  1. I agree; this would be super useful data to have. It would also be interesting to see if people are as confused (or moreso) by a gender identity question as they are by the ethnicity question (the one where certain people want to put in “New Zealander” because they don’t want to identify as “NZ European/Pākehā”). Given that statisticians have been able to sort through those confused answers should give us reason to think that even if people are confused by the distinction, experts will be able to derive information from the answers anyway.

    (Stats NZ do seem to be rather wary about these kinds of questions; they keep vaccilating over how they ask questions about ethnicity, which is really not very useful when tracking census data about ethnicity over time; let’s hope they do better about a) choosing a question toi elicit data about gender identity and b) they don’t then suddenly reverse their decision because some people got confused and angry about the question.)

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