It’s our lord’s year of 2021, but despite that I was only today years old when I realised the Australian Census doesn’t actually collect LGBTIQ+ people’s identity in its data.
Do you know how many LGBTIQ+ people live in Australia? No? Neither do I, because currently, the Australian Census doesn’t actually ask people what their gender identity or sexuality is, meaning we just aren’t counting people with LGBTIQ+ identities.
The Australian Census happens every five years (with the next date being August 10), and the data it provides is crucial information on the scatterings of populations, because those numbers basically tell the state where specific services need to be delivered/targeted to help specific communities.
Currently, the Census allows Aussies to specify if they are living with a partner of the same sex, but that doesn’t account for people who are attracted to the same sex but are single or don’t live with their partner. Or anyone who isn’t in a same-sex relationship but is still LGBTQI+.
You’d think we’d fix this ASAP but in 2021 the Federal Government decided the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) wouldn’t include questions about gender and sexuality in the Census.
Instead, the ABS just added an option under ‘sex’ to also nominate ‘non-binary sex’, and now there is a free text option under this selection so you can specify your sex characteristics.
Outside of the binary and filling in the Australian Census. 1. It asks your sex, not gender
2. If you select non-binary sex, it gives you a free-text option (albeit about 'sex')
3. This is how I filled it in
4. Free-text means you won't mess w/stats for ppl who are intersex pic.twitter.com/K3CkpxLK66
— Prof Sandy O'Sullivan (Wiradjuri, trans they/them) (@sandyosullivan) July 30, 2021
But the thing is, sex isn’t the same as gender, and that question actually doesn’t tell us a lot about people’s identities. Plenty of trans people and other people with varying gender identities or sex characteristics don’t identity as non-binary – so they’re just not counted in the Census.
Statistically, LGBTIQ+ Australians have higher mental illness and suicide rates, and can be deterred from accessing certain services because of stigma or discrimination around their identity.
This is a huge part of why it’s important to know where where LGBTIQ+ people are living and what their needs are – to help create accessible health care and fund necessary services going forward.
Do you know how many LGBTIQ+ people live in Australia?
We’ve joined forces with @courtneyact to create this handy explainer about why LGBTIQ+ people must be counted in the Census. Please watch and share!????#CountUsIn #Census2021au @ABSStats #AusCensus @LGBTIQHealthAu #equality pic.twitter.com/4EwJ80vtwl
— Equality Australia ???? (@EqualityAu) August 2, 2021
Refusing to include such crucial info doesn’t just leave LGBTIQ+ people out of the count – it also means certain bigoted groups can pretend that there aren’t enough LGBTIQ+ people in Australia to justify assigning funding to queer inclusive health and education. Which is obviously fucked.
LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, Bi Alliance, Working It Out, Meridian ACT, Transgender Victoria, Equality Tasmania, PFLAG Capital Region, Queensland Council of LGBTI Health, ATSAQ and A Gender Agenda have joined forces to launch a petition demanding representation in the Census.
The petition calls for the 2026 Census to include a separate question on sexual orientation, a separate question on gender identity, and a separate question on variations of sex characteristics.
It’s 2021. Let’s hope the federal government and the ABS can get their shit together and actually give LGBTIQ+ people the representation they deserve.