• Written by Brendan Churchill, Research Fellow in Sociology, University of Melbourne
The ABS should include detailed questions about gender and sexuality in the 2021 Census. AAP/Brendon Thorne

There’s an old maxim: not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

But there are some things we should count, and gender and sexual diversity are among them.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has abandoned preparations to ask questions about sexual orientation and more detailed questions about gender identity during its upcoming census test later this month.

This follows a consultation process in which many public submissions from researchers, advocacy and community groups and individuals strongly pushed for the bureau to include more detailed questions about gender identity and sexual orientation.


Read more: Mum, dad and two kids no longer the norm in the changing Australian family


The forthcoming census test will, however, ask respondents whether they identify as male, female or non-binary. This does not mean this question will eventually make it onto the questionnaire for census night in 2021. It also does not mean questions about sexual orientation or more detailed questions about gender identity will be excluded.

So there is still time to consider the inclusion of questions that will better reflect Australia’s diverse demography.

Why including gender and sexuality matters

Simply and perhaps most importantly, including questions in the census that adequately capture gender and sexual diversity is an important act of recognition of LGBTIQ people and their lives. Those who do not identify as male or female or heterosexual often feel invisible to the wider community.

The 2016 census tried to be more inclusive by making changes to the way it collected information about sex. This allowed respondents to select “other”, with the option of providing more detail. But in order to answer “other”, respondents needed to request this option. The rationale was that there was some apprehension about how the public would respond to an “other” category.

There were 1,260 people gave a valid response to this question. The ABS acknowledges this figure under-reports the actual numbers of people in Australia who do not identify as male or female.

But “other” is not very inclusive and compounds feelings of invisibility. An individual submission to the Review of the 2021 Census Topics noted:

I am a trans-woman and the last census effectively rendered me invisible along with the rest of my community by making a non-binary gender response difficult to enter.

While the test for the 2021 census will include a response category for non-binary, which is a significant improvement on many fronts, the lack of questions or response categories that recognise respondents who are intersex, transgender or gender-queer and so on means these groups are not counted. This in turn means they remain invisible from a census perspective.

This is true for sexually diverse groups as well. While Australia has come a long way with the recent legal recognition of same-sex marriage, including these questions in the census will be another step towards greater recognition of sexually diverse people.

Other countries are counting these populations

Other countries are moving towards including questions about gender identity and sexual orientation in their censuses. The UK, for example, has recently passed a bill allowing trans people to choose their gender in the 2021 census.

Closer to home, researchers are doing their best to capture this information themselves. For example, the Scrolling Beyond Binaries project, which seeks to understand how young (aged 16-35) LGBTIQ+ people in Australia use digital social media, asked respondents about their gender identity, the gender assigned at birth, sexual orientation and their intersex status.

But research such as this is limited in its ability to make population-level findings about LGBTIQ+ people because it’s unable to derive a representative sample. Only the census could collect these data in a reliable way.

Why the numbers count

The ABS already collects some data on these populations. The 2014 General Social Survey captured some information about sexual orientation, but not about gender diversity. Some information about same-sex couples can be derived from the census using data about relationships within households.

We know the proportion of same-sex couples has been growing steadily over the past 20 years. We also know around 25% of female same-sex couples and 4.5% of male same-sex couples have children.


Read more: Six months after marriage equality there's much to celebrate – and still much to do


But our picture of same-sex families is incomplete because the census can only tell us about families that live together in the same household. We do not know how many gay or lesbian lone-parent households there are because the census does not collect information about sexual orientation. Moreover, not all lesbian and gay people are in relationships and, even if they were, not all of them reside in the same household.

Australians who identify as lesbian or gay have higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation than their heterosexual counterparts. Transgender and sexually diverse people fare even worse.

These facts are well documented among state and federal government policies, programs and strategies, but knowing how much of the general population this affects, where these groups reside and the communities they belong to using census data will mean governments can begin to address these issues more adequately.

Census night in 2021 is still a long way off. It is imperative these questions about gender and sexual diversity are included if we are to recognise LGBTIQ Australians and address the issues and challenges that affect them the most.

Brendan Churchill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Brendan Churchill, Research Fellow in Sociology, University of Melbourne

Read more http://theconversation.com/we-need-to-count-lgbti-communities-in-the-next-census-heres-why-124769

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COSMETIC SURGERIES

Science has made breakthroughs in numerous fields and achieved milestones that no one thought was possible before. These achievements are not limited to saving lives using advanced medical procedure...

News Company - avatar News Company

Is Brisbane Property Market A Good Place to Invest?

Investing in real estate can be a very profitable venture, but one must approach such a decision with care. As any businessperson knows, one very important factor when it comes to selecting property...

Himanshu Agarwal - avatar Himanshu Agarwal

Last summer's fish carnage sparked public outrage. Here's what has happened since

Graeme McCrabb/AAPAs this summer draws to a close, it marks just over a year since successive fish death events at Menindee in Lower Darling River made global headlines. Two independent investigatio...

Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University - avatar Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University

It's now a matter of when, not if, for Australia. This is how we're preparing for a jump in coronavirus cases

ShutterstockWhile countries around the globe have been taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, it has now been reported in 37 countries outs...

Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity - avatar Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Many Scots want independence from the United Kingdom. How might that play out in a post-Brexit world?

AAP/EPA/Robert PerryOf the many issues thrown up by Brexit, one of the most pressing is the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom. Brexit was in large measure a revolt by a certain section of ...

Simon Tormey, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol - avatar Simon Tormey, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol

Vital Signs: a 3-point plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050

ShutterstockEvery January Larry Fink, the head of the world’s largest funds manager, BlackRock, sends a letter to the chief executives of major public companies. This year’s letter focu...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Requiring firms to only sell financial products we can use is good, but not enough

ShutterstockThe government’s financial system inquiry, on which I sat, reported five years ago. It recommended that the creators of financial products be subject to a design and distribution o...

Kevin Davis, Professor of Finance, University of Melbourne - avatar Kevin Davis, Professor of Finance, University of Melbourne

Friday essay: a real life experiment illuminates the future of books and reading

Books are always transforming. The book we hold today has arrived through a number of materials (clay, papyrus, parchment, paper, pixels) and forms (tablet, scroll, codex, kindle). The book can be a...

Andy Simionato, Lecturer, RMIT University - avatar Andy Simionato, Lecturer, RMIT University

Angus Taylor sets down 'markers' to measure success of government's technology roadmap

The government would be looking for the private sector to put in four or five times as much as it invests in research and development of particular technologies to reduce emissions, Energy Minister An...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company