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Should the government replace sex data with gender (identity) data?

Written By: - Date published: 10:07 am, August 11th, 2020 - 110 comments
Categories: feminism, sexism - Tags: , , ,

Stats NZ is asking for submissions on their proposed changes to the standards for collecting and using data about sex and gender (submissions close 5pm on Thurs).

The proposed changes appear to be twofold in intention: to make this research and governance part of society more inclusive to transgender people, and to have a set of consistent standards on collecting and managing general sex and gender data for the government, academics, NGOs and others. Because it will be used so broadly it’s an important set of standards, even more so given the shifting nature of social and political understanding of gender and sex and the large degree of social and political conflict over this internationally.

I spent some time last night reading through the documentation and to be honest it reads like it was written for civil servants and people working in the sector. Hard for a lay person to get their head around, even myself who has been following the various debates on gender. My concerns here are that the proposed changes may have implications for society more broadly than the needs of transgender people, and that women in particular will be largely unaware of what is happening and thus not involved in the consultation.

I was left with questions and unease.

Much of the document looks at questions aimed at gathering better data on transgender people. This seems well thought through and appropriate, and responsive to the parts of the community this most affects.

However there is also the intention to replace general sex data with gender data as the default unless sex data is specifically needed,

We propose that the ‘gender by default’ principle is adopted in an updated standard. This is an approach that defaults to the collection of gender data as opposed to sex at birth. Defaulting to a specified variable facilitates consistency of data collection. Collection of sex at birth information should be viewed as an exception where there is a specific need.

In most cases a person’s gender – their social and personal identity – is most relevant for policy making and research rather than their sex at birth. Gender based analysis is used in a range of areas, from income equality to health and education.

One of the big gaps in this document is the claim that sex data is not usually needed but not explaining why, or when sex data would be needed. This is not conducive to good consultation. It seems obvious that a lot of health research would need biological sex data, but what about things like domestic violence? For example, if sex data isn’t collected, does this mean that anyone identifying as woman will be included as a woman in the statistics on gendered violence (both victims and perpetrators)?

I’ll note three things there about this flow chart. One is the use of ‘female/male’ for both sex and gender (thus confusing biological sex and gender). The second is they don’t give a reference for when/how to answer one of the questions at step two: when should we collect sex data? The third is that some people don’t consider themselves to have a ‘social and personal identity’ based in gender, they experience themselves as a sex. How will meaningful data be collected about them?

I’m going to speak to the semantics of ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ shortly, but if you are starting to feel confused about the language, don’t worry, everyone is.

The care and concern demonstrated for trans people individually and as a class throughout the documents is evident and to be applauded. What I don’t understand is why this isn’t also being seen as an issue for women. If the intention is to largely replace sex data with gender data, then why have women not been consulted in this given sex is central to a wide range of experiences of being biologically female in NZ society?

In their process of developing changes to the standards, Stats NZ convened an external expert advisory group in 2019 to assist with aspects of the review. There were no women’s groups represented.

From the terms of reference,

Data collection which reflects the diversity of the population in terms of sex and gender identity is limited and inconsistent across the system – not only in New Zealand, but internationally.

There’s an obvious need to focus on LGBTQI+ interests, but making changes to sex data inherently affects women as a class. It’s hard to see how lessening understanding of sex improves the reflecting of diversity of the population. Even more so when we consider that society has often considered male to be the default sex and this has impacted negatively on women.

Both transgender people and women have specific vulnerabilities related to their classes and the ways in which society treats them. My own opinion is that each class has distinct needs, and that there are some areas where those needs are currently in conflict politically. In that context, choosing to make statistical information based in gender to the exclusion of sex is a highly political act.

There is a massive and very fast cultural shift happening in Western societies around gender and sex, and in some places it’s no longer possible for academics or government workers to present counter ideas without putting their jobs and careers at risk. It’s unclear to me if this is an issue in New Zealand, and if this has been a factor in this process.

With regard to the semantics. When I was trying to get my head around gender self-ID law reform in NZ a few years ago, it appeared that NZ legislation and policy generally had muddled and overlapping uses of the words sex and gender, which made it hard to make sense of the debate. This is true of wider society, think about the meaning of biological sex and the concept of changing one’s sex.

This is even more so in the various debates happening around the new gender wars, where transactivists and gender critical feminists have both weaponised semantics and use this to talk past each other. eg GCFs use the term ‘man’ to mean biologically male, TAs use ‘man’ to mean a gender identity. Both sides know it and insist on ignoring the other’s definition.

More broadly society has a history of colloquially using sex and gender interchangeably, but now gender has new meanings and there is a push to redefine sex away from its biological meaning. Thus various groups, including Stats NZ, talk about female and male gender, at the same time as conflating this with female and male sex, at the same time as lessening the importance of sex as a way of understanding women’s reality. This has alarmed and pissed off an increasing number of women who believe we have a right to determine the language and concepts used to describe our own class experience and politics.

Stats NZ do include definitions in the document of what they mean by sex, gender, male, female, but I’m not convinced those definitions are widely and consistently shared by New Zealanders, and I wonder what happens when people fill in census or survey forms and use the words in their own way.

This was not an easy post to write for a number of reasons. I have tried to focus here on the issues for women but feel constrained in my ability to do so because of the complexity of the underlying issues (and explaining them to people who are currently outside the debate), and because there is a shit storm of epic proportions raging out there around those issues in parts of society that the rest of society is either largely ignoring or actively trying to suppress the debate about.

Trans people obviously need a lot more support from society across a range of areas and it’s good to see Stats NZ attempting to do this. Other than general support for this I don’t want to comment on the issues for trans people as I feel they are speaking for themselves elsewhere (likewise I’ve not talked about intersex people, which the review also covers).

The biggest thing that stands out for me right now is that society desperately needs to have a wide ranging and comprehensive conversation about sex and gender and what these mean not only semantically but more importantly in terms of human knowledge, experience and politics. And that conversations needs to be free from the acrimony that characterises the current wars around gender and sex.

If you want to join the discussion below, please be mindful of not bringing that shitstorm or acrimony here i.e. make an attempt to be kind, respectful, or thoughtful in your comments. The usual policies around robust debate and not using language or tone that has the effect of excluding others stands.

If you want to make a submission, there is a form just down this page.

110 comments on “Should the government replace sex data with gender (identity) data? ”

  1. Visubversa 1

    We are not permitted to have any conversations about the conflation of sex and gender. Civilised or otherwise.

    • weka 1.1

      we should probably change that.

      • Grace Miller 1.1.1

        Hard to have a debate when Malice Snedden has made, with public money/assistance, TERFS. A podcast in which she and self-identified Caitlin Spice, laugh at women, tell untruths about the meeting Malice attended (I was there) and dismiss our concerns. Dan/Caitlin is 6 foot 2 and built like a man, funnily enough. Yet if I point this out, it's hate speech. Gavin Hubbard cheating in women's sports isn't, though. Nor 'Kate' Weatherly LoL. It's hard to have a chat with people who think THIS: http://www.terfisaslur.com

        Biological reality is not hate speech.

  2. Sam 2

    The one time that the taps have been thrown wide open on gender issues and the first comment is oh nah, and it wasn't me.

    There's also the issue about what to do about all these university students halfway through their communications degree's or whatever while the government is throwing billions into planting trees and these gender issues will give these uni students something to work towards in an effort to recover from corona with there degrees intact or they could just do manual labour if yall want to give in already.

  3. By introducing the confusing gender identity concepts into the Census, it will likely make the data unreliable. Let's have biological sex only for now. This data is too important for government policy around health and the needs of women and children, for it to be diluted by abstract semantics that will confuse the public.

    • weka 3.1

      it's important to have stats on trans people, as it is on women. I can't see the problem with having two question sets, so long as it's clear what they are asking. That's tricky bit at the moment.

      • roblogic 3.1.1

        In that case a "gender identity" question should include trans-woman or trans-man. Not the biological terms male and female. Further, we should not project these adult fetishes on to children.

        Maybe the gender question should simply ask a yes/no question “do you suffer from gender incongruence?” I would applaud mental health questions being a more prominent part of the Census.

        • Sam

          I would question the desire to make all this perfect on the first try. We should just accept that the first attempts at broadening the survey questionnaires will be trash but we've got a whole bunch of uni students with not much career prospects and a lot of time to make improvements. We just have to accept that the first surveys will be terrible and throw a whole bunch of resources at it so we get better at gender issues over time.

          • roblogic

            That's silly and unhelpful. The last two censuses (censii?) were already dodgy, we have to do better

          • weka

            that's not going to happen if the government considers asking sex questions isn't that important, and where they think they don't need to talk with women about that. It's not just questions in a survey, it's basically the government taking the position that sex is a minor area of human experience and that women should be ok with being regarded via gender and not sex. That's a really big shift.

            I don't think unis are the place we are going to get this resolved, given the huge pressures to not talk about sex and gender.

        • weka

          I agree the language is a big issue, but there are also issues around what will work for trans people in answering questions.

          Not all trans people experience their transness as a mental health issue (and I'm not convinced that patriarchal society's control via gender isn't a big part of why some do).

          Speaking of language, I can't see how trans = fetish. Whatever is going on with the fetish communities and overlap with transactivism, there are plenty of trans people for whom that's not part of their lives.

          • roblogic

            I'm more concerned about statistical integrity. At a time when language of gender appears to be in flux these questions must be short and clear as possible.

            Race has usually been the contentious question, this is an interesting shift. It's a bit like Pokémon, we can't catch 'em all.

          • Lucy

            If we are using statistics to drive our health policies, then we do need to differentiate our different genders, as each have specific health needs. Transitioning gender reassignment people have different health needs than gender defined people. We are asking binary questions with non binary answers. We should be asking questions that allows variation. The difficulty is that the question has to be phrased in a way that allows for health decisions without being insulting or upsetting to people who may be going through stuff. It also needs to assume that the gender population will change and a person may have a number of genders through their life.,

            • weka

              Yep, that all seems reasonable. In addition to that, which is what the post was about, we also need to make sure that sex data is counted and that one of the classes most affected by how we collect sex and gender data needs to be included in the development of policy around that and the wider public discussion i.e. women.

              Speaking of binary, we really need to get past this idea that addressing women's needs is oppositional to addressing trans people's needs.

        • solkta

          I don't think your use of the words "fetish" and "suffer" are in the spirit of the type of discussion that weka asked for. The answer from many transgender people to the question “do you suffer from gender incongruence?” would be "no i don't suffer at all, i stand up proud to be who i am".

          edit: just noticed weka’s reply.

        • Infused


      • Jenny 3.1.2

        Trans women are women. I think you mean trans women and cis women. TBH in many surveys information on gender or sex isn't needed, it's just added. Perhaps the shift should be to only asking questions about information when it's needed?

        • roblogic

          Claiming the incorrect sex in a medical event could be life threatening. Agree with the bit about intrusive data collection, it's pervasive

        • Rosemary McDonald

          Trans women are women.

          Are they? Doesn't that depend on your own particular definition of "women"?

          Why can't trans women be trans women, and women be women?

          • adam

            Why can't trans women be trans women, and women be women?

            I'd like to take it a step further, why the mad dash to argue trans women are women, whilst at the same time trashing on women's rights?

            Can we deal with the fact women die needlessly from many medical conditions because their hasn't been the research to cure them. Or in NZ's case needless and cruel research.

            Why is endometriosis still so ridiculously slow to diagnose? Why are women told by doctors every day "it's just in your head"

            I'd like us to deal with this, before worrying about some description on some form. How about we actually deal with the real life and death stuff.

            But no, once again it appears the guilt over state sponsored homophobic laws, or the madness of radical individualism will win the day.

            Who gives a toss about women and their rights…

      • Grace Miller 3.1.3

        Trans comprise less than ONE PER CENT OF THE POPULATION yet there's all this 'woo' for them…. ever wondered why? Follow the $$ cos Big Pharma will have lifelong patients with their surgery, hormones etc.

        If you can manage – have a gander at this video of how trans ideology has been forcibly inserted into every nook and cranny of life. At 7.10 there's a timeline of their forcible insertion. Bc that's what it is. Less than one per cent of the population.

        Less than one per cent. But let's change the whole system for them and women miss out. Why am I not surprised?

    • Nic the NZer 3.2

      Unfortunately calls for clarity of meaning are bound to fail. The philosophy which backs these ideas asserts that societal power structures derive from language. Taking over and reinterpreting certain words is an intentional part of the strategy. The idea (though its not going to work) is that everyone should come to believe somebody who calls themselves a man is a man and somebody who calls themselves a woman is a woman. Apparently then there will be no difference between sex and gender. It seems unlikely that the people who want these terms reinterpreted will want to be involved with being more clear about their meanings.

  4. Dennis Frank 4

    Replacement of the trad binary will make things worse unless done with clarity and accuracy. If the govt has failed to map transcultural reality, shit will happen.

    Worldwide, there are many individuals and several subcultures that can be considered exceptions to the gender binary or specific transgender identities. In addition to individuals whose bodies are naturally intersex, there are also specific social roles that involve aspects of both or neither of the binary genders. These include Two-Spirit Native Americans and hijra of India.

    Feminist philosopher María Lugones argues Western colonizers imposed their dualistic ideas of gender on indigenous peoples, replacing pre-existing indigenous concepts. In the contemporary West, non-binary or genderqueer people break the gender binary by refusing terms like "male" and "female". Transgender people have a unique place in relation to the gender binary.


    The obvious thing is that the third choice has to be presented, so that those who self-identify as neither male or female can tick it. The next-most obvious thing is that the third option must present all those categories in currency: a multiple-choice option. That's clearly essential since identity is driving those sub-divisions into political groups. Denying the existence of political groups is bad governance.

    • roblogic 4.1

      Disagree. Identity (gender) is psychology. Sex is biology. There is a strong correlation but for this census to gather good data the two concepts (sex vs gender) should be distinct and not conflated as you have done.

      The sex binary is a biological fact for 99.98% of the human race. Only ~0.02% have intersex conditions (DSD's) and that is a separate concept from "gender identity" which has no basis in biology.

      • infused 4.1.1

        this. There's nothing further to be said imo

      • Dennis Frank 4.1.2

        Do you really believe that respondents to the census will recycle the trad binary in accord with your maths?? Not a snowball's chance in hell, I reckon.

        Even on the non-conflation issue I bet more will be in my camp than yours. However, rather than public opinion being a competitive arena, it'd be better to have the bodies of opinion measured via social science research. I presume universities have done that job (to prove they aren't a total waste of time)…

        • roblogic

          A few respondents being dishonest about the sex question is no reason to wipe it out and not collect data of such fundamental importance.

        • weka

          I can't tell what your camp is.

          Did you read the post? It's not about trans people per se, it's about the government deciding that biological sex should no longer be a primary data collection and that they don't have to talk with women about that.

          "I presume universities have done that job (to prove they aren't a total waste of time)…"

          Read the bit in the post about academics.

          • Dennis Frank

            Yes, of course. I also read it for a second time and still see no evidence that academics have done their research – which would provide a suitable informed basis for the bureaucrats to use to design census questions, eh?

            I agree with the gist of your essay. Just wanted to point to a few dimensions of the situation that seemed worthy of discussion.

            For instance, Roblogic seems to believe that the trad binary frame is still valid, so I provided the evidence on the wiki that discredits that notion. Then suggested the sensible design of the question that the evidence points to.

            • roblogic

              Hahaha wikipedia. It's subject to the level of persistence of editors to put their own ideological point across. There's a lot of contention in the scientific community because radical postmodernists are trying to deconstruct the authority of the whole scientific enterprise.

              • Incognito

                Please don’t bamboozle us with long words 😉

              • Dennis Frank

                Yeah, that's been happening since the '90s. As a science graduate I see some merit on both sides of the divide. On this issue, I tend to go with the consensus view painted by the wiki – but only on the basis that social reality is co-constructed. As regards the portions of any population being biologically determined, I'm agnostic, hence my call for actual social science stats to simulate measurement…

                • roblogic

                  You're "agnostic" about basic biology? Biological sex isn't a social construct. Gender roles are.

                  • solkta

                    We are talking about a lot more than just "roles" here. Many transgender people have their genitals altered through surgery and take hormones regularly. You can see the results of this on porn sites if you are not convinced. There is a lot that science still has to grapple with in regard brain development and sex. There is more to it than genitals.

                    • Grace Miller

                      Hilarious. Sex is immutable. No woman has or had a penis. Alter yourself with surgery and hormones, live your best life in a dress, sweet as. Doesn't make you a woman. Nothing will. Every cell in the body is either male or female.

                      I didn't make the rules of biology. 🙂

                  • Dennis Frank

                    There's a huge difference between perception and reality. Measuring populations according to what they look like seems suspect. Check out how widespread the non-binary folk are, as established in traditional cultures, reported by anthropologists, etc.


                    • roblogic

                      Once again I am surprised how easily otherwise intelligent people come to embrace science denial, if it aligns with their feelings on a matter.

                      XX chromosome; produces large immobile gametes; female reproductive biology

                      XY chromosome; produces small mobile gametes; male reproductive biology, and adult males are morphologically different from female due to high testosterone production during adolescence.

                      Homo sapiens require 1 male and 1 female in order to reproduce. No “third sex” is required or observed.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          "I presume universities have done that job (to prove they aren't a total waste of time)…" Pathetic jibe, indicative of a MASSIVE anti-academia chip on your shoulder.

          Please Dennis, ditch that chip (from time-to-time) and consider the positive roles NZ university staff have played in providing expertise and training that has contributed to NZ's place in the world – maybe start with our enviable health outcomes in relation to the current global pandemic – even academics get it right sometimes!

          One critical-thinking researcher has proposed that becoming a skilled critical thinker requires the same amount of practice required to become a highly skilled athlete or musician: approximately 10,000 hours. If this suggestion is even partially correct, it points out a problem, since no single class, or even years of education, can provide this amount of dedicated practice time.

          That is why professors must not just teach students critical-thinking skills and give them opportunities to put them to use, but they must also inspire them to continue practicing those skills on their own across academic subjects and in all areas of life. Given that thinking is something we do every waking hour and does not require practice fields, instruments or special equipment, inspired students can apply the critical-thinking skills they learn in class to improve their grades and make better decisions in life, reinforcing their value and creating a virtuous cycle of continuous use.


      • Grace Miller 4.1.3


        Gender is a societal construct.

        Sex is immutable.

        Only women get pregnant. Only women have a cervix. Only women have a period. This is considered hate speech by the woke. I will never kowtow to #TheNakedEmperor and his handmaids.

  5. Sacha 5

    What sorts of information do public agencies need to classify by biological sex rather than social gender?

    • weka 5.1

      and vice versa. Would have been nice if Stats NZ, in consulting with the public, had told us.

      (I don't think it's only public agencies).

      • Sacha 5.1.1

        Public agencies often have equity obligations that require categorising people they serve or do not serve.

    • Mika 5.2

      "What sorts of information do public agencies need to classify by biological sex rather than social gender?"

      1. Crime rates. There are sex based patterns to criminal behaviour. If we want to reduce rates of male violence against women and girls we need to be able to name (and quantify) the problem.
      2. Health care. If we don't know the sex of the population, how can we plan for screening programs, maternity service provision etc?
      3. Sports participation. Especially as sporting bodies around the world start to openly acknowledge the real impact of gender ideology on women and girls sport we need to track sports participation by sex to even try to reach equity.
      4. The sex pay gap. Discrimination on the basis of reproductive capacity affects women on the basis of our biological sex, not gender identity. The poor provision of maternity pay is a sexed issue and we need to be able to count the female people impacted by this.

      Bottom line: sex matters. It is the basis on which women and girls are oppressed. We cannot fight our oppression if we cannot accurately name and count ourselves as a class.

      • Sacha 5.2.1

        Health is a clear place where biology counts. Sports too. However I would welcome any evidence to back your assertion that either crime or pay are a matter of biological sex rather than social gender.

        sex matters. It is the basis on which women and girls are oppressed.

        But girls and women are gender terms, not sex ones.

        If a gender is only oppressed because of sex, then logically the oppression cannot exist for people with the same gender but a different sex. Trans women must always be better-off than non-trans women; trans men must be worse off than non-trans men. Is that the reality out there?

        • Rosemary McDonald

          But girls and women are gender terms, not sex ones.

          Sorry to be pedantic Sacha, but can you provide evidence of that…?

          Not so very long ago if one said 'girl' or 'women' it would be assumed one was referring to biological sex. Same with 'male' or 'female'.

          'Masculine' or 'feminine' otth, would have referred to personality or behavioral characteristics.

          • Sacha

            How is it in any way controversial that 'girls' and 'women' are socially-constructed gendered terms?

            They mean different things in different cultures and at different times. Just because European culture used to conflate them with biological sex ('female') does not mean that is or was the best way of understanding them.

            • Nic the NZer

              I'm pretty confident that in every culture the term for man is a description of biologically male person and female a biologically female person. That goes even for female dominated cultures such as the Amazons or some Celt tribes. But if there really is a better understanding then I'm sure you can show me a culture where the men gave birth or at least one which didn't bother developing words for either sex because it was not a concern.

            • Paddington

              "How is it in any way controversial that 'girls' and 'women' are socially-constructed gendered terms? "

              Principally because the terms 'girl' and 'women' refer to human beings of the female sex. These are not social constructs. And it shouldn't be controversial.

            • Delia

              We are not socially constructed we are born female or male and this can be shown in the womb at 16 weeks by a scan.

        • Psycho Milt

          Crime is a fairly obvious one. If trans-identified males commit violence or sex offences at similar rates to males in general, we could expect 'gender as default' to result in a significant increase in violent and sex offending by 'women.'

          The pay gap may be less affected, ie the number of transwomen would be too small to have a significant impact either way.

          • McFlock

            If trans-identified males commit violence or sex offences at similar rates to males in general, we could expect 'gender as default' to result in a significant increase in violent and sex offending by 'women.'

            Doubtful – firstly on your "if", but also on the same reason you think the pay gap wouldn't be affected so much. the number of trans women could well be too small to have a statistically significant (let alone policy-significant) shift in the stats.

            • Psycho Milt

              The 'if' statement is reasonable. There's no reason to assume identifying as a woman makes men less likely to offend. Speak Up For Women has more on it.

              The difference between crime and the pay gap is that very few women commit violent or sex offences, so a relatively small number of trans women could have a significant effect on the offending rate.

              • McFlock

                I'm sure SUFW have a whole shedload on it. (link is bust)

                Fact is, without hard data it's all just speculation. One could also speculate that a socially-conditioned passive group leaving a socially-conditioned violent group would increase the rate of violent crime for men, rather than women. But would that be a distortion, or a better reflection of our social structures?

                And it all assumes that "identified gender" is the only gender/sex statistic settled upon, rather than a "gender default" that would largely be replaced by a sex selection in any serious analysis which would use the IDI spine for the offender demographic data.

                • Sorry – link should be https://speakupforwomen.nz/sufw_essays/reasons-for-safeguarding-concerns-with-self-id/.

                  And yes it is speculation and needs hard data, which is exactly why I'm dubious about Stats NZ making gender the default based on advice from activists. We've had two recent instances of trans-identified males convicted of serious violent offences against women that I know of, maybe there are more. Is violent offending by women really so common that this male violence won't skew the stats? Who knows? Not Stats NZ, I expect.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Is violent offending by women really so common that this male violence won't skew the stats?


                    Family and intimate relationships—the one area feminists often identify as a key battleground in the war on women—are also an area in which women are most likely to be violent, and not just in response to male aggression but toward children, elders, female relatives or partners, and non-violent men, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Violence.

                    Just because a person is female doesn't mean that they won't be violent.

                    • "Probably" my arse.

                      According to Corrections:

                      For violent offending in 2001 and 2003 conviction figures read 89% for males and 11% for females.

                      On the day of the 2001 Prison Census (15 November 2001) 4 percent of the total sentenced prison population in New Zealand was female.

                      Of the sentenced females in prison, five (1.5%) have been sentenced for a sexual offence

                      If there are five female sex offenders in prison, even one trans-identified male sex offender makes for a 20% increase in 'female' sex offending.

                      According to Wikipedia, similar figures in the USA: 89.5% of homicides committed by male offenders and 98.9% of rapes.

                    • McFlock

                      Whack confidence intervals around those numbers and tell us how it changes if that "20% increase in female sex offending" is actually a significant change in the female sex offending rate.

                    • Exactly: under Stats NZ's proposals, how would we know whether the inevitable increase in the rate of 'female' sex offending actually involved females or not?

                  • McFlock

                    I'm dubious about Stats NZ making gender the default based on advice from activists.

                    lucky that rather than doing that, they're opening up the proposal to consultation from anyone. I don't think they'll be short of activists touting the negatives of the proposal, do you?

                    • weka

                      bit of a difference between setting up a paid advisory committee with support, and running a low key public consultation off inadequate documentation.

                    • McFlock

                      "low key". yeah, nah.

                    • "Low key" in relative terms. I wouldn't have heard of this if it weren't for feminists on Twitter. Calls for submissions by government departments are inevitably "low key" relative to running a paid advisory committee.

            • weka

              this seems reasonable at face value, because the number of transwomen in society is seen as being so small. But self-ID would probably change that. If a woman is anyone that says they are a woman, then what is to stop men from saying they are women as it suits them? It's seems this is already happening in prisons. If you were a man in prison, would you be willing to pretend you are a woman to get to live in a woman's prison because it is safer? I would.

              Then there are the high profile cases of males claiming to be women, being put in women's prisons and then sexually assaulting women prisoners. One of the more bizarre aspects of this debate has been left wing people arguing that men won't lie in order to access spaces where they can assault women.

              That's about men, before we even have to think about transwomen and rates of violence.

              Maybe statistically none of this is an issue. But I can't see how we can know or how society can develop best practice if it defaults to gender over sex stats, and if women are excluded from policy development.

              • One of the more bizarre aspects of this debate has been left wing people arguing that men won't lie in order to access spaces where they can assault women.

                That bears repeating. And it especially bears thinking about by the people making that argument.

                • McFlock

                  It's about as bizarre as assuming that the prison service is unaware that prisoners might lie to get what they want, and would have no idea what to do if they thought that had ever happened.

                  • weka

                    "The Ministry of Justice has since apologised for the placement."


                    I don't like highlighting these cases, because it feeds transphobia and fails to address the issues around "what is trans?". But I'm also not ok with left wing people running lines that basically sacrifices women's safety because of ignorance of where prisons have already gotten this wrong.

                    White isn't the only case, there are now multiple reports of prisons and other organisations reviewing their policies around placement, because they basically took the position that TW who hadn't surgically transitioned, or men claiming to be women, were inherently safe for women to be around in those situations, and then women got assaulted.

                    If you want to know more about this, look up the UK and Canadian cases. You could look at the issues around refuges and rape crisis centres too.

                    Fwiw, I think the solution in this context is third spaces and better assessment processes. I don't think TW should be in men's prisons (I don't think TM should be either).

                    • McFlock

                      There are also cases of trans women being sexually in men's prisons in NZ.

                      The third spaces thing is one idea, but then we'll have transwomen assaulting transmen or whatever.

                      Prisons need to have enough space to separate dangerous prisoners without turning it into essentially isolation torture. The same reason double-bunking should be banned and gang members separated from unaffiliated prisoners and other gangs. We have too many people in the prisons we have, and we're careless about their safety from each other, and we don't put appropriate resources into rehabilitation.

                    • There are also cases of trans women being sexually in men's prisons in NZ.

                      You're doing it again. See below from weka: "I reject the positioning of the safety of TW and the safety of women in opposition like that."

                      Re the capability of Corrections to deal with male offenders identifying as women to serve their time in a women's prison: under sex self-ID a man who identifies as a woman is a woman, so there's no basis for imagining Corrections could do anything about it.

                    • McFlock

                      from proposal quoted in the post:

                      Collection of sex at birth information should be viewed as an exception where there is a specific need.

                      So if the presence of a panis is an issue, there we are.

                      But which prison someone oes to has nothing to do with how they are imprisoned to preserve the safety of other prisoners.

                      And people can reject positioning all they want, but the practical reality is that trans prisoners have to be imprisoned somewhere, by definition.

              • McFlock

                For some reason the cases of trans women being sexually assaulted in male prisons seem to have a much lower profile as time passes. Safety counts both ways.

                We could probably check in ten years time, matching sex at birth from birth records with current gender (and even imprisonment) using the IDI, just to see if the transgender community has begun to flood society. Probably a good idea for a basic policy audit. But as for excluding women from policy development… the current numbers are way too small for that.

                • weka

                  do you honestly believe that I think violence against transwomen in prison is unimportant? Saying safety counts both ways is insulting as if it's not the ground upon which we debate.

                  I reject the positioning of the safety of TW and the safety of women in opposition like that.

                  It's also a non sequitur give I was talking about men not transwomen. Obvious point here is that males are the problem, they're the ones harming women and transwomen. We need to count sex.

                  That's nice that you want to wait ten years to see if there are any issues. Meanwhile, women are saying hang on, there are *already issues, and we want to have a say in our own political fates.

                  • McFlock

                    Dunno about "unimportant", but not important enough to recognise as being part of the practical problem of prisoner administration and safety.

                    Which is why this idea of men changing gender identity willy-nilly is such a beat-up. A gender tick-box doesn't determine the security level a prisoner is held under, or whether they're segregated away from the other prisoners. And someone bouncing back and forth as it suits them would get the same response as if they wrote "yes please" on the line beside "Sex:".

                    This isn't a "ten years and wait" issue. That was just an interesting project I was thinking aloud on (hazards of analysis).The transgender rate now is feckall overall. You whack a 95% confidence interval on any issue facing women now, the new rate will be well within it.

                    Bureaucratically, we can count people as they are now, or when they were born 40 or 50 years ago (if they differ).

                    Practically, we can treat them according to who they are, regardless of how they filled in a form.

                    • weka

                      "Dunno about "unimportant", but not important enough to recognise as being part of the practical problem of prisoner administration and safety."

                      You think that I don't recognise that violence against TW is a serious issue in terms of prison management? You really don't know what you are talking about there.

                      Which is why this idea of men changing gender identity willy-nilly is such a beat-up. A gender tick-box doesn't determine the security level a prisoner is held under, or whether they're segregated away from the other prisoners. And someone bouncing back and forth as it suits them would get the same response as if they wrote "yes please" on the line beside "Sex:".

                      I didn't say any of that though, you just made all that up.

                    • McFlock

                      Made it up? Not from where I'm sitting.

                      It's late, and frankly this is pretty far removed from the reality of what is going for consultation.

                      Having no default keeps the stats corrupted and treatment of individuals inconsistent, defaulting to gender has the issues you raised, and defaulting to sex at birth across government has a pile of other issues relating to the treatment of trans people here and overseas.

                      Glad I don't work for statsnz with that gordian knot to unravel.

                    • weka

                      "Made it up? Not from where I'm sitting."

                      Please quote and link to where I have expressed opinions about the safety of TW in prison.

                      Re the complexity and gnarlyness if the issue, I agree. Thought your first comment today had a lot of useful observation in it in that regard.

                    • McFlock

                      Please quote and link to where I have expressed opinions about the safety of TW in prison.

                      I didn't see that you have. That's my point. I saw a comment or two where you talked about the dangers transwomen can present in women's prisons, but there didn't seem to be any mention of the hazards they face in men's prisons. And as long as prisons are binary (rather than quadrinary? Quinary? Individualised?) trans people are going to have to go in one or t'other. It's a very real practical trade-off in safety that's involved.

                    • weka

                      I'm not debating how to horsetrade humans in that fucked up situation though. What I'm doing is talking about the implications for women of a general approach of counting gender rather than sex (in a context of self-ID). You inferring something about my beliefs about TW in prison from that is you making shit up. If you had wanted to know you could have just asked, and I would have said, but I didn't want to write a post about TW, I wanted to talk about the issues for women.

                      The comment you link to isn't about TW, it's about men. I also said that I don't buy the TW vs women framing, I think it's bullshit that throws one or the other under the bus.

                      Afaik, there are prison systems that are now looking at third spaces for the reasons outline in this subthread. And they're also having to look at their assessment processes because women got raped.

                      LW men positioning this in ways that imply women have to bear the brunt of this because TW are vulnerable too, and where those LW men lack the imagination to see other political positions or solutions, are probably also missing why so many women are now seriously pissed off. I have to admit being surprised that you are one of them.

                      I don't really know if you are arguing that of course, because it's a rare leftie who will come out and say that women being raped is a small price to pay for attending to the safety of TW (I have seen that argued by LW trans allies though). I suspect it's more likely that you are unaware of the recentish history in the UK and Canada in particular and hope that you will go look that up.

                      Regardless of what you think you know about my politics, I remain committed to not throwing trans people under the bus, as well as resisting the left's undermining of feminism and the ability for women to have a say in their own lives and politics.

                    • McFlock

                      I think we should minimise the number of people being raped. Regardless of how they fill in a damned form.

          • Grace Miller

            It's already happening.

            Shane Winter is a man. IDs as a woman. How many men are in women's prisons because they 'feel' like a woman? #TooFuckingMany Gender woo.

      • Jan Rivers 5.2.2

        Good points all.

        The fact is that horse about pay has bolted. The recent excellent figures for women's pay in the public sector did for the first time in 2019 include people by self identified gender. What this means, since it appears there was no checking, is that we will never know whether this great result was actually the result of women succeeding or well paid trans identified men (transgender women) being counted as women. There was no consultation about this which arguably means that at least part of the consultation has been pre-empted. Page 9 of this document makes it clear where it talks about self-identified gender. https://ssc.govt.nz/assets/SSC-Site-Assets/Workforce-and-Talent-Management/Organisational-gender-pay-gaps-Measurement-and-analysis-guidelines.pdf

      • woman 5.2.3

        Can't agree with you more. How confusing will be for new generations to look for partners. Will women who transition to men be allowed to participate in male sports?

    • Mandy 5.3

      All sorts of information needs to be identified by sex for it to have any validity eg women's health, age statistics, wellbeing, income, life expectancy, crime data, employment, retirement income etc.

  6. Grafton Gully 6

    "The biggest thing that stands out for me right now is that society desperately needs to have a wide ranging and comprehensive conversation about sex and gender and what these mean not only semantically but more importantly in terms of human knowledge, experience and politics."

    I agree and would note the ongoing contribution to human knowledge of scientific research on the biological basis of sexual developement, reviewed in this article.


    • Gabby 6.1

      I suspect 'society' will proceed as it pleases regardless of any discussions held on its behalf by its enlightened betters.

  7. Red 7

    A man is a biological man, a women is a biological women, a trans women is a biological man who thinks she is a women, a trans man is a biological women who thinks she is a man You can no more change your gender biologically than you can change your age ( you may feel 21 but if your 40 biologically your 40) Who and what you are attracted to sexually is irrelevant to your biological gender Saying all of that if Paul wants to be Paula all respect to them, if they wish to be addressed as such all respect to them, but they can not demand that I/ we accept they can break a fundamental truth of biology and gender. Thus by all means seek to understand the transgender population in the census as they are a group with distinct needs but not under, what is your gender section as their are only 2

    • greywarshark 7.1

      If men go through the whole thing and take hormones and have their penis altered or whatever they do, small breasts inserted, then they are to all intents and purposes, women. They may be able to have sex as a woman. If they really want to be women and go through all that then I would accept them as one.

      If they go through all that Red, it isn't as definite as you describe it.

      But there seems to be a craze, a movement at present, which to my eyes seems to come from living in a changing, protean time where nothing is certain, our lives are centred round computer and other machines that are out of date in two years. And lying is the new black! Who is settled and still alert?

  8. Climaction 8

    For the purpose of statistics and to help macro plan the economy and the public service needs for each gender better I assume?

    bit hard to see a good public outcome when gender is that fluid and becomes identifiable as opposed to observable.

    Sexuality sure, but this?

    if it isn't for the purpose of providing better public service outcomes and / or is to hard to quantify for better public service outcomes, what is the point?

    • PaddyOT 8.1

      Weka's example of needing transgender identification in dometic violence data is important.
      Sent me searching and there's too many research papers to list but appears transgender are significantly over represented as victims of sexual violence and domestic violence.
      https://vawnet.org/sc/serving-trans-and-non-binary-survivors-domestic-and-sexual-violence/violence-against-trans-andSo this data directly affects areas such as education in campaigns such as the ' It's not ok? '. Or upskilling the expertise of help agents such as counselling or police understanding of victims; and onto how defence counsell in court may use transphobia or ignorance to sway a jury in a manner like Grace Millane’s murder.

      We had a researcher interview clients who volunteered to participate in research of police treatment of gay victims of sexual violence and this did lead to change so identifying who a person identifies as is not 'pointless'.

  9. Jan Rivers 9

    I've made a very full submission on this topic. It is linked from the bottom of this article. I find it more worrying that Weka has indicated for a number of reasons. Public servants have recently been told to introduce themselves with pronouns in meetings and emails.

    One of the advisory groups on the Stats NZ working group on this have claimed in their submissions that Speak Up For Women and therefore their submission is from a far right hate group who have encourage the participation of overseas groups. There are other claims made which are untruths.

    It is quite a startling claim from an organisation that has a privileged position in the consultation process.

    There was no prior notification of the approach until the submission process was announced. It is indeed a radical departure from what was expected.

    As Weka has said the overview documents are poorly presented and difficult to understand. They are missing obvious information that only a meeting with the government officials was able to clarify. Happily the next census will include sex. That was not made clear. There is severe doubt about whether Canada's approach is indeed a good one to follow. Canada for example has a gender self identification law and NZ does not.

    Its hardly an environment suited to open debate and free and frank advice. Public servants have recently been told to introduce themselves with pronouns in meetings and emails.


    • Jan Rivers 9.1

      Uh Oh, bit of an edit mix up there – but I think the point is clear. I think Stats NZ have got it badly wrong.

    • Nic the NZer 9.2

      "Public servants have recently been told to introduce themselves with pronouns in meetings and emails."

      If the government manages to get itself associated with this initiative then its going to be way more infamous than "Lightbulbs and Shower heads".

    • weka 9.3

      I'm not familiar enough with consultation processes to know how off this one was. It looked like a lot of assumptions and assertions were being made, and the lack of clear explanations seems weird. Covid and the problems Stats have been having generally no doubt account for some of it.

      "far right hate group" was that term actually used?

  10. McFlock 10

    ISTR statsnz took a look at this issue a census or two back and backed well away when the complications became evident.

    But it needs to be looked at, because the binary options are insufficient for both sex and gender, and people tend to put down any old shit according to their personal definitions or the form-filler's assumptions, anyway.

    There doesn't seem to be any ideal solution. Every form will either be unrepresentative for someone (e.g. the gender default), overly invasive (e.g. gender differing from sex at birth on a driver's license form), or a form-filling kajumble (sex at birth option M/F/I current gender option M/F/O previous gender option and anything else, when most people would answer M or F to both).

    Statistics are all about numerators and denominators. Even if all trans people were trans women, from a denominator perspective the number of trans women wouldn't affect denominators at a policy level. E.g the reproductive rate might go from e.g. 1.900 to 1.899 births per woman, but the annual variation would probably still be larger than the contribution from trans women. It would be unlikely to affect policy. The cervical cancer rates, for example, would have a barely-detectable change.

    The numerator perspective is more interesting – e.g. if trans women are e.g. 50 times more likely to be assaulted than non-trans women, the rate of assaults on women would double.

    Would that affect policy, and how? Not sure. Might the cops or government pretend that the observed increase was due entirely to the inclusion of trans women, when really assaults on them were only part of the observed spike? In that event, probably. But that depends on the final approach taken by the cops on their reports, and a belief that the increased numbers will result in inaction because the victims are trans. And you can bet they already get people's sex or gender wrong already, so how much of an impact would it genuinely have? Who knows.

    I'm looking at this purely from a statistical bureaucrat perspective in this comment, and frankly there is no good solution that I can see. Any combination of data gathering will result in underreporting or overreporting in a variety of demographic groups, or less reliable data as people misread or skip convoluted forms. As intersectionalism goes, this intersection has a high probability of traffic accidents whichever layout is chosen.

  11. One of the big gaps in this document is the claim that sex data is not usually needed but not explaining why, or when sex data would be needed.

    More to the point, offering nothing whatsoever to back up the claim that gender should be the default. Sex is a matter of physical reality and gender is a matter of opinion, so there's good reason to be concerned about the integrity of the data if they use gender as the default.

    It's the equivalent of asking people both what year they were born and how old they feel, and deciding to use how old people feel as the default for any age-related stats.

    The only obvious use case for asking about gender is to get stats on transgender people, so using it as the default makes no sense.

    It's been a month or two since I read the docs that Stats NZ released about this, but from memory the consultation on whether to use sex or gender as the default involved trans activists and academics who are gender identity believers, so it's no surprise that gender has been declared the default, but that's hardly a robust consultation process.

    • Tabletennis 11.1

      exactly and it is of concern that Stats NZ consulted lopsided and seem reluctant to revealing with whom (no women have been involved )

      What if the biological categories of male and female were replaced with socially defined identities?
      The answer is, wherever biological sex is a critical aspect of life and is replaced by subjective perception, ignorance and injustice would follow.

      A defense of biological sex (by the ww.theparadoxinstitute.com/p…)
      Here's 9 reasons why sex is important. (10min)

  12. Chris T 12

    It surely can't be splitting the atom difficulty wise just to collect both.

  13. millsy 13

    At the end of the day, the left is going to have to realise that men being able to call themselves 'women' simply by shaving their legs and putting on a dress isnt exactly the civil rights issue of our time.

  14. Hanswurst 14

    If there is contention over the definition of the word 'gender', it should simply be avoided entirely. Perhaps simply the question, "How do you identify yourself?", with the series of options then listed. The question of sex could either precede that question or be omitted, depending on the purpose of gathering the data.

  15. Jason 15

    No. Collect both, both are relevant and important.

  16. Katrina 16

    Once we start turning the definition of the words ‘woman’ and/or ‘female’ into descriptions only – i.e. anyone who says they are – where do we go from there? Descriptions are unreliable and changeable, whilst definitions are our compass points. Although social change can be good, without definitions we can all rely on and understand we can’t work towards common goals, because it’s impossible to rely on descriptions that might change the next day.

  17. Delia 17

    It is a jack up, that is why you see no women's groups consulted. It has deliberately been been kept from the public. I am the female sex, I have never been a gender. I want to keep it that way. The object of a census is future planning, male and female sex have different health needs, how is this to be addressed if sex identity (I use identity reluctantly) is a free for all. Will male crimes be attributed to women? The female sex has protected provision under the Human Rights Act what has happened to that? Thank you for printing this Standard. Right now women are deliberately stopped by our so-called free press from discussing these issues and are issued with an ugly name I won't give oxygen to printing here. Only yesterday Radio New Zealand happily allowed the use of that word for targeting of New Zealand women who question these issues. I am supposed to be a female living in a democracy. Nothing has turned women away from the left like this issue has in my lifetime.

  18. woman 18

    For someone who is looking for a partner, this new system will be totally confusing. If sex should be replaced by gender, than perhaps we should not name them individually. Just have one sex. Gender definition causes confusion for women especially. I don't see any women who transitioned to man competing in male domain or sport. Women should stand up for their rights. What we need more male acceptance of their own diversity.

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