Culture / People

The Australian 2021 census will finally include a non-binary option


An update to the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been made for non-binary and gender non conforming people, who will soon be provided with the opportunity to check off a non-binary option in anticipation of our upcoming 2021 census. This step is not only vital for the recognition and affirmation of diverse gender identities, but will additionally allow Australia to update its data on gender diversity within Australia, and provide wider data on the health and well-being of LGBTQI+ community across the country.

The last consensus in 2016 adhered to the Standard for Sex and Gender Variables, which has now been updated, but only allowed citizens to check an "other" option in place of male or female, undoubtedly yielding inaccurate results due to limitations around specific gender identity and sexual orientation. The 2016 census only recorded 1,260 Australians who identified as gender diverse and required a special form to be completed in order for it to be counted, leaving a large margin of people unaccounted for.

The updated ABS Standard for Sex and Gender Variables will apply to a range of surveys undertaken by the statistical body moving forward, including but not limited to the 2021 census.

The standard includes specifically asking for individuals "sex recorded at birth", along with a recommendation that statisticians use pronouns like "they" instead of "he" or "she" in surveys, to allow for better affirmation of transgender, intersex and non-binary Australians in the formal database.

In order to avoid the terms 'sex' and 'gender' being mistakenly interchanged, the ABS defines a person's sex to be based on their chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs - something they have acknowledged can change. The ABS defines gender as “social and cultural differences in identity, expression, and experience.” and something that can also change throughout a person's life.

These changes are a necessary step forward for Australia to better understand the size of Australia’s trans, non-binary and gender non conforming community-at-large, and with luck, will yield useful statistics to better provide safety and care to the community.

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