Australian Bureau of Statistics on the matter of sex

The 2021 Census data has begun to be released. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have released a statement about the question of sex in the Census and the inclusion of the term ‘non-binary sex’.

It is the first time the nonsensical term has ever been used in a Census. Sex is binary. There is male and female – no other categories exist.

The ABS were not allowed to include a question about “gender” as it does not fall within the parameters of the legislation as outlined in the Census and Statistics Regulation 2016.

As a result the ABS can only report on whether people are male or female. However, the statement said,

Data about the population who reported non-binary sex on the Census will be released in an article in September 2022, including analysis of the optional write-in text responses and the characteristics of the responding population.

This question and this new category were not intended or designed to collect data on gender. Therefore, the number of people who reported a sex of non-binary on the 2021 Census cannot be used as a measure of gender diversity, non-binary gender or transgender communities.

Information that is collected on the Census is outlined in the Census and Statistics Regulation 2016, which is part of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The topics that are included on the regulation, and therefore collected on the Census, are decided by the Australian Parliament. The regulation specifies that the Census should collect data on sex. 

The ABS defines a person’s sex as being based upon their sex characteristics, such as their chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs. A person’s gender is about social and cultural differences in identity, expression and experience as a man, woman or non-binary person. As gender is not currently listed as a topic on the Census and Statistics Regulation, the ABS did not ask this question on the 2021 Census.

Binary spokeswoman Kirralie Smith, said the question of sex should always remain as it is based on facts, not feelings.

“Biology matters. The Census informs public policy and determines allocations for things such as health care which relies on accurate data regarding sex. Males and females have different needs and therefore must be accounted for,” she said.

“If a person identifies as something else, and chooses to deny the reality and elevate their feelings, that is their prerogative, but it needs to be considered separately to the reality of biological sex.”