A psychologist has warned the Australian Bureau of Statistics' new method to collect data on trans and non-binary individuals which allows them to select up to two genders may not yield accurate figures because young people change their minds about gender regularly.

The ABS has updated its official method to collect data on sex and gender earlier this year "in response to the growing requirement for data that adequately and accurately reflects trans people in Australia."

Australians will also be able to choose numerous answers for sexual preference which may include terms like 'Asexual', 'Pansexual' and 'Queer' which may be added to an individual's response, the ABS said.

The new options will not be used in the upcoming national census this year but will be used in future surveys of the nation's population.

"The gender response option chosen will reflect a person's gender at that point in time. Some people may not identify with a specific gender or with the concept of gender at all," the ABS said when it released the new methodology.

 

Psychologist Dianna Kenny. Picture: Toby Zerna
Psychologist Dianna Kenny. Picture: Toby Zerna

Psychologist Professor Dianna Kenny said gender statistics might be meaningless because a young person who identifies as non-binary or other gender terms could change easily.

"There's a large number of very young adolescents declaring themselves trans or non-binary or queer. But that's going to change dramatically as they move through adolescence," she said.

University of Sydney sociologist Salvatore Balbones said this was an issue for only a tiny fraction of people and had a fairly limited application.

"If we simply did not ask anybody what their gender was or what their sex was, society would go on just fine," he said.

"I understand that it is a serious issue for a small number of people who are deeply engaged with this, but for everyone else, it will hardly be noticed."

 

 

This year's census will allow Australians to choose more than one gender if they select the non-binary options, something Mr Balbones also said could distort data and therefore our understanding of issues affecting women.

"That's why there's so much conflict between feminists and transgender activists, because a lot of (the people) on the losing end of this potentially are feminists or women in sport or things that are set aside for women," he said.

 

 

Australians who nominate themselves as non-binary will be able to also choose a second gender. Picture: istock
Australians who nominate themselves as non-binary will be able to also choose a second gender. Picture: istock

McCrindle social researcher Geoff Brailey said older people completing the census this year may not fully understand what terms like non-binary mean.

"I think the emerging generation will have a greater understanding of that terminology and even a level of connection or relationship with people who are identifying as a non-binary gender, and our older generation may have a lower level of understanding of (those concepts)," he said.

The ABS said participants in this year's census who choose non-binary will be able to describe their own gender.

"The online Census form allows respondents who select the non-binary sex an option to provide further information," an ABS spokeswoman said.

Originally published as Queer, pansexual or asexual? Let the ABS know