This year’s Census will offer Australians the option to identify their biological sex as neither male nor female but “other” for the first time.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines respondents of the “other” sex category as “persons who have mixed or non-binary biological characteristics (if known), or a non-binary sex assigned at birth”. The third category of sex is variously described as indeterminate and intersex, the ABS says.
On August 9, the Census will ask the question “Is the person male or female?” People can call the Census Inquiry Service on 1300 214 531 to ask for a login to select an “Other” option online. Instructions on how to specify biological sex as “other” on the paper Census form are available on the Census website.
Census Data Director Sue Taylor said the Australian Bureau of Statistics consulted with LGBTI communities and that the changes recognised the fact “that sex and indeed gender are no longer seen as purely binary options for response.”
“Community expectations are such that we really need to start thinking about how we are going to enable people to report as they would like to,” she told SBS.
“We are in contact of course with other census agencies across the world and a lot are grappling with the same issue of how best to ask this type of question.”
Victorian Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Rowena Allen told SBS she welcomed the new options after 10 years of advocating for amendments to the Census.
“For me, it’s been a 10-year journey and I know there’ve been a lot of advocates. Last time we were told – this is five years ago, or even ten years ago – that it wasn’t doable, that it would be too expensive to do,” Rowena said.
“I think it’s fantastic because it’s a free box. So if we had to tick something we would never get enough boxes. People identify their gender and sexuality in a whole lot of ways.”
The ABS will report the number of Australians who give their biological sex as “other” with the rest of this year’s Census information in mid-2017.
(Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the Census changes applied to gender diverse Australians. The census question asks respondents for their biological sex only.)