Trans people make up at least 1% of the population. The population of NZ is around 4.917 million, so at 1% the number of trans people in NZ is around 50,000. That means at least one trans person for every 100 patients, students, workers, or people in a community.
The Youth12 study (NZ) showed that 1.2% of school students identified as transgender. The Youth19 study (of 7,721 adolescents) showed 1% identified as trans. 73% of these said they identified as transgender before age 14. A recent GLAAD (USA) study also showed 1% of people identified as transgender. The GLAAD study also showed that 16% of non-trans (cis) people knew a trans person in real life.
Issues for trans people
Trans people experience extremely high levels of stigma and discrimination across all areas of public life including in education, employment, housing, accessing healthcare, goods and services, justice, sports and recreation, policy and legislative input, and other areas. This results in high levels of material hardship.
13% asked inappropriate questions during a health visit in the last year. 1 in 5 are homeless at some point. This figure is 1 in 4 for non-Europeans. 46% of homeless trans people were discriminated against by landlords. Only 14% participate in sports, vs 26% of the general population. 20% were disrespected or mistreated by a doctor in the last year. Sex education does not include trans people’s existence. 55% of students are unable to access health care when they need it, vs 19% of cisgender students. 17% have experienced “conversion therapy” in a health setting. 1 in 3 avoid seeing a doctor when they need one, to avoid being disrespected. 23% of trans students are bullied at least weekly, vs 5% of cis students. The median income is half the median income for the general population. 71% of homeless trans people moved at least once every 6 months on average in the last 5 years. 67% experience discrimination. 44% experienced this in the last year, vs 17% for the general population.
Trans people experience very high levels of stigma, exclusion, social isolation, and violence in their personal lives.
59% of homeless trans people don’t contact their family to help find housing. Two thirds of trans students “come out” while at school, but of those who do, only a third feel safe to come out to parents. 64% of trans students say at least one parent cares about them “a lot”, vs 94% cis students. 72% of homeless trans people first experienced homelessness as a teenager. 36% of trans people have been forced to have sex against their will – this is 3x the rate of women in the general population (11%). This is more common for non-binary people and adults. For disabled trans people, this figure is 7x the rate of the general population* 82% of homeless trans people say transphobia from housemates was a factor. Only 32% of trans students feel safe in their neighbourhood vs 58% cis students
* Sexual violence figures are estimated to be severely under-reported for all groups
Mental health and well being
The pervasive stigma, discrimination, and violence which trans populations experience not only impacts on their physical and material well being, but also on their psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being. Trans people experience high levels of distress, anxiety, depression, self harm, substance use, and suicidal ideation.
57% of trans students people report significant depressive symptoms, vs 22% of cis students. 71% live with high levels of psychological distress, vs 8% of the general population. Trans people use cannabis at 3x the rate of the general population. 26% of trans students attempted suicide in the past year, vs 6% of cis students. 57% of trans students have self harmed in the past year, vs 22% of cis students. For trans people, substance abuse is linked to mental health and neurodiversity more often than disability or chronic pain. 79% of homeless trans people have a mental health condition, and 66% are neurodiverse.
Resilience and protective factors
Trans people are highly motivated, hard working, and care a lot about community and family. They are very likely to be involved in supporting others, volunteering, and community work. “Chosen family” are the main source of support for many trans people. Family, whānau, and friends are also important.
62% agree they are proud to be trans, while only 14% disagree. Connection to culture is a strong protective factor against suicide. 85% of disabled trans people socialise with other trans people online. Overall 74% of trans people do this.. Feeling connected to trans community is linked to better health outcomes. Māori are more likely than most trans people to feel connected to their culture, to receive support from whānau after having experienced sexual violence, and to want to have a child or more children. 58% provide a lot of support for other trans people, and 56% feel connected to other trans people. 90% of trans people with housing instability contact friends to help them find housing. 62% of trans students are involved in volunteering, vs 54% of cis students. Disabled trans people are more likely to be involved in political activism. Strength of informal networks is a critical protective factor. Safety is paramount to trans people, including when it comes to housing. Those who are supported by their family/whānau have better mental health.
How to ally
Supporting a trans person you know
How to give the right support depends on your relationship to the trans person. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com
Everyone: don’t “out them” as trans without their permission, don’t ask invasive questions. Do respect their pronouns and name, do listen to them.
Friends: be there for them, listen to them about what they need and how you can support them.
Health teams: provide accurate information, follow the National Guidelines for Gender Affirming Healthcare, use Informed Consent, and let the patient decide what they need.
Landlords: rent to them.
Partners: respect and care for them.
Families: let them know you love and support them no matter what. Fight for them when they need you.
School and work: provide a safe learning/work environment, deal with bullying appropriately.
Supporting the trans rights movement
Supporting trans rights means taking whatever space you have influence in and making it safe for trans people. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com [see links below, the main menu, and our blog page].
Amplify trans voices: read/listen to trans people and share their perspectives, link to their content.
At school or work: ask if your school or employer meets the minimum legal requirements for a safe school/work environment.
Political advocacy: being a good ally means walking beside; not over or in front of. Take your lead from trans-led orgs, which are experts on trans issues.
In your community: talk to others about trans rights, share why you think it’s important. Consider trans people in everyday life.
Feminists and women’s rights groups: include trans women in making decisions, and discuss the facts – eg. talk about the trans pay gap, and bodily autonomy for trans people.
Scrap biological essentialism..
Examine your biases.
Talk to friends and family about trans rights.
Stand up against transphobia when you see it.
Remember intent =/= impact.
Find out more
Learn about recognising transphobia, being a supportive family, healthy relationships, and more, at genderminorities.com
Sources for statistics
Gender Minorities Aotearoa (3,000 contacts a year across NZ)
Counting Ourselves (2019).
Where Do You Sleep at Night? Transgender Experiences of Housing Instability and Homelessness (2020).
Do you have time to help improve how data is collected about our communities?
Stats NZ is looking for trans (including non-binary) and intersex people to help test possible sex and gender questions that could be used in surveys. It will take about an hour, either in person (in Wellington or Christchurch) or online / via video. You need to be 15 or older and available this month (February 2021). Stats NZ are offering a supermarket or petrol voucher for your time.
There is also a very short online form to get extra feedback about a transgender status question. That online form is open until 19 February.
Information from Stats NZ about helping to test the sex and gender questions (1):
What we are looking to do?
Stats NZ are testing a range of sex and gender questions as per the consultation paper to help determine the guidance we give for collection of these concepts in a range of different surveys of people and the households they live in.
We aim to include both online and paper-based survey forms. Note that you need to be at least 15 years old to participate.
What is involved?
Our testing involves completing a draft form, in the presence of an interviewer (in person or video call) who will ask for your feedback on the parts we’re looking to improve e.g. wording. We’re also checking that the design and layout enables people to work through the survey easily from start to finish.
When and where?
Testing will be taking place in over the month of February, with Christchurch and Wellington office based tests. There will also be online/video options.
As a thank you, we will you give a supermarket voucher or MTA (petrol) voucher for your time and effort.
Information from Stats NZ about the online form (2):
To complement the cognitive testing process, we have developed an online form to get additional targeted feedback from transgender and nonbinary New Zealanders on wording variations for a transgender status question and guide notes to support the standard. This will be live till 19th Feb. This may be a more accessible way for people to engage if they do not have capacity to be involved in the cognitive test process. It may also allow us to get further insight from minority groups that may not have been feasible with general participant recruitment.
The feedback form is not for the purpose of re-consulting on the proposed changes to the existing standards, but rather a means to refine the question formats and guidance that will be included for a question on transgender status specifically.
Any one of these parts on their own can be transphobia.
Stereotypes are widely held ideas about a certain group of people, which are oversimplified generalisations.
Prejudices are unjustified preconceived opinions, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings about a person, which often come from believing in stereotypes about the group they belong to.
Prejudice function in 3 main ways:
– Maintaining an exploitation/domination relationship (keeping people down). – Enforcing social norms (keeping people in). – ‘Disease avoidance’ (keeping people away).
Discrimination is the actions (including failure to act) based on prejudice.
This can include interpersonal discrimination in one’s private life, e.g. social exclusion, bullying and harassment, physical and sexual violence.
It can also include discrimination in public areas of life, e.g. exclusion from human rights protections, exclusion from other legal rights, exclusion from or discrimination in housing, healthcare, the justice system, accessing goods and services, recreation and sport, education, employment, etc.
Examples include: requiring medical interventions in order to gain an accurate birth certificate, landlords refusing to rent to trans tenants, inadequate access to appropriate healthcare services, schools or employers not taking action to keep students or employees safe.
67% of trans people report experiencing high levels of discrimination in NZ, 44% experienced this in the past 12 months (vs 17% of the general population).
Cognitive; thoughts about people.
Overgeneralised beliefs about people may lead to prejudice.
”Being trans is a sexual fetish”, ”They are dangerous”.
Affective; feelings about people, both positive and negative.
Feelings may influence treatment of others, leading to discrimination.
”I am genuinely afraid of sexual violence from trans women”.
Behavior; positive or negative treatment of others.
Holding stereotypes and harboring prejudice may lead to excluding, avoiding, and biased treatment of group members.
”I want to stop trans women from using women’s bathrooms” ”Trans people should be sterilized to change their birth certificate”.
It is very common for trans people to be stereotyped in a variety of ways, and to experience stigma and discrimination across all areas of life. The impact of widespread transphobia is the key factor in the disparities faced by transgender people.
These disparities include: being bullied in school (21% vs 5% general population), being forced to have sex against their will (32%, vs 11% of women in the general population*), poverty (trans people’s median income is half the median income of the general population), going without fresh fruit and vegetables (51%) and putting up with feeling cold (64%) – 3 times the rate of the general population, being asked invasive questions during a medical visit (13% in the last year), reparative [conversion] therapy (17%), avoiding healthcare visits to avoid being disrespected (36%), high levels of psychological distress (71%, vs 8% general population), suicidal ideation (56% in the last year), suicide attempts (37%).
Gender Minorities Aotearoa undertook research in the Wellington region in late 2019, in order to gain understandings of the circumstances surrounding homelessness for transgender people; their experiences of it, the support services required to address it, and the housing aspirations of those experiencing it. This report details the findings of the research in which 43 participants contributed.
These participants are mostly European/Pākehā young adults and gender diverse. A large proportion of them have had relatively stable home environments as children, yet many of them have experienced situations of homelessness from an early age. All of the participants disclose that they have at least one health condition, with the three most prevalent conditions being: mental health condition, neuro-diversity, and disability. For most, employment opportunities and incomes are limited.
The participants tend to move housing within the same region; moving across regions seems to be less frequent. However, most of the participants change sleeping arrangements frequently, from every few weeks to every few months. This is due to a number of concurrent and compounding factors such as poor quality housing, temporary availability, unaffordability, and eviction. All of the participants have been able to sleep in safe and relatively long-term housing at some point over the past five years, however, about two-thirds of them have also experienced unsafe, temporary, or exposed forms of housing.
When describing safe, stable and long-term housing, the participants mention affordability and good quality housing as key criteria, as well as positive relationships with flatmates; in particular, flatmates who are not transphobic or sex worker phobic. The characteristics of the neighborhood are also important to consider (e.g. close to public transport and services). Finding appropriate housing is impacted by experiences of stigma and interpersonal prejudice, structural and systemic discrimination, potential changes to whānau composition, and limited financial capacity; necessitating moving frequently to try to improve one’s situation. To help in their search for suitable housing, the participants rely on their close networks such as friends and family, and the use of technology including social media and apps. Many also contact professional organisations or support services. A range of other strategies are used, including the provision of semi-commercial sexual services.
A number of recommendations are provided to help address some of the disparities highlighted in this research. They include an emphasis on prevention and better access to the welfare system, as well as the delivery of timely and integrated support services when people experience homelessness. Safety is a critical factor and needs to be reflected in the provision of temporary/emergency housing, as well as long-term housing (e.g. council and public housing aimed at trans and non-binary people). These need to be complemented by other actions to address disparities and assist people to sustain their housing. For example: reducing discrimination across education and employment in order to be able to afford rent; better access to appropriate healthcare services to enable trans people retain employment; and education campaigns to reduce stigma and discrimination.
In a historic moment, Statistics NZ announced their plans to count all people in NZ, regardless of gender, in the next census. A separate but related document, the NZ Statistical Standard for Sex and Gender, is currently under review, and Statistics NZ has called for public submissions on their proposed changes to the statistical standard, which are open until August 13th 2020.
In short, we are calling for trans people and our allies to make a submission in support of the following proposed changes to the NZ Statistical Standard for Sex and Gender.
The proposed gender definition.
Adding “Another gender” as a response to this gender question.
It should be made explicitly clear that the proposed ‘2 step method’ of asking gender as well as sex assigned at birth is only appropriate in extremely limited circumstances, such as national population surveys (explained further in the example submission below), AND must alwaysuse the framing of ‘sex assigned at birth’.
An intersex variation question should be used when intersex population data is required, in addition to sex and gender questions, again in extremely limited circumstances.
SNZ must clarify that the only question that should be asked in most surveys and any individual applications is a person’s gender. (Although GMA notes that in many instances of individual information collection – rather than studies and research – this information does not need to be collected at all).
Formerly, the census question on gender asked ”Are you: Male  Female ”. Statistics NZ is proposing that a gender question should have a third option added, ”Another Gender ”. This would provide a way of counting all people whose gender is a cultural one, any form of non-binary gender, or any other gender that is not covered by the male/female binary. Statistics NZ is proposing that most surveys and forms only ever ask for people’s self-defined gender. They are calling this ‘gender by default’.
Statistics NZ is proposing that there are only very limited times when this data is needed. One of these is when we need to compare the experiences of trans people overall against the general population, or in comparison with cisgender people’s experiences. So, in anonymous surveys, they are proposing this a new question ”What was your sex at birth?” [note we strongly suggest this is changed to ‘sex assigned at birth].
Statistics NZ is proposing that a sex at birth question is never asked on its own. The only time it would be asked is together with a gender question, in limited circumstances where it is necessary to compare the experiences of transgender people overall against those of cisgender people. Having a gender question and a sex (assigned) at birth question together is called the ‘2 step’ method.
In the consultation document Statistics NZ explain why they aren’t simply asking ‘’are you transgender?’’. This includes that any single term like ‘transgender’ gets outdated and could exclude many people who don’t use that specific term. For example, this might include some non-binary people, some who consider themselves transsexual and not transgender, some takatāpui, and some people who consider themselves full time drag queens, and those who don’t feel ‘’trans enough’’ to call themselves trans, and those who may be confused about whether they should tick male or female alongside transgender to show they are, for example, a trans man. It is also challenging to design a question using identity terms that is understood by the broad range of trans people and cisgender people of all ages who fill out the census and other official surveys.
‘Are you transgender?’ would also tell us less about the trans people who do answer the question. In particular, if someone says their gender is “another gender” and that they are trans, there is no way of knowing whether they were AMAB or AFAB. That reduces the information our communities will have about the different needs of those two non-binary populations.
Some trans people are concerned that the question ”What was your sex at birth?” sounds very similar to ”What is your biological sex?’. We e share this concern and prefer a question asking ”What was the sex assigned to you at birth?” – we will be giving Statistics NZ that feedback. But, we also recognise there is a difference between ”your sex at birth” and ”your biological sex”. This distinction is very important, for the following reasons.
Understanding sex classifications
Each person’s sex characteristics include their chromosomes, hormone patterns, gonads (reproductive organs) and genitals. These are all parts of a person’s physical or biological makeup but are not what are used when someone’s sex is assigned at birth and recorded on their birth certificate. Most people have never had their DNA measured, and many trans people have changed their hormonal balance and potentially other aspects of their sex characteristics through gender affirming medical treatments. A person’s sex recorded at birth is typically based on looking at only one part of the infant’s “sex characteristics” – their external genitalia, and is assigned to them based on this imprecise measure.
While ‘sex at birth’ implies that there is an accurate process behind the assignment of sex, this is far from the truth.
It is scientifically inaccurate to assume that all people can be defined as male or female based on their sex characteristics or that sex characteristics cannot change over time. Such assumptions fail to recognise the diversity of the sex characteristics that intersex people are born with, or the biological and physiological sec characteristic differences trans people experience through gender affirming medical treatments.
Using the term ‘biological sex’ to describe the sex recorded when we are born inaccurately assumes that everyone’s sex is clearly male or female at birth and never changes. Using the term ‘sex assigned at birth’ clarifies this.
When trans and intersex people are not counted accurately, it is difficult and, in some cases, impossible to advocate for our rights. We need to have accurate data so that funding and resources are allocated to meet the size of our population and the needs of different parts of our communities. For example, until recently, it was thought that there were many more trans women than trans men in Aotearoa, and we had no data on non-binary numbers. This led to different levels of genital reconstruction surgery funding for trans women and trans men, and particulardifficulties for non-binary people trying to to access gender affirming medical care. We now know that the largest trans group in Aotearoa is actually non-binary people, but we need to know whether they are AFAB or AMAB, and whether this makes a difference to their life circumstances, and in what ways [ Counting Ourselves, 2019]
Some international data tells us that, for example, the employment discrimination that trans men face reduces if they have access to and choose to take hormones and have top surgeries and are read as cisgender men, while trans women are more likely to continue to experience high levels of employment discrimination. Asking a gender and a sex assigned at birth question in official surveys could help us find out if that’s also the situation here, and whether access to gender affirming healthcare early in life could prevent such discrimination in the longrun for trans women as well [IZA World of Labor].
Local data is very important for understanding what policies and laws need to change and which services are needed by whom. There is no government data on this, so having a two step question in the census and other official population surveys is very important. Together they increase our potential ability to understand all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence by distinguishing between the experiences of trans women, trans men, non-binary people (both those AMAB and those AFAB), cisgender women, and cisgender men, as well as intersex people – who may fall into any of these categories additionally.
We are also aware that the terms sex and gender are used interchangeably across many government agencies. We don’t feel a need to distinguish between the terms in situations where it is clear that people are able to make a response that matches their self-defined identity, whether that identity is trans, cis, intersex, both, or any other term. Having a more specific ‘sex assigned at birth’ question clarifies the distinction that sometimes needs to be made to measure the transgender and cisgender populations.
The anti-trans campaign group ‘Speak up for Women NZ’ has a coordinated campaign with support from many international anti-trans campaigners and far right political and faith based groups. It is usual for groups such as these to organise a great number of international submissions, which pretend to be from NZ. This is a well-documented tactic of far right groups. The anti-trans extremist movement is small but well networked across different countries. They aim to focus on a particular country to block laws and policies that respect trans rights.
Part of how they do this is to push for ‘equal but separate’ and promote options that are based on the idea that “biological sex” is an immutable category from the time it is assigned, in order to exclude trans people – with a focus on trans women – from human rights. Some examples of their tactics in NZ include contacting schools to stop transgender from being included in sex education classes, and campaigning against the BDMRR bill which intends to allow transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificate without the current requirement of ‘permanent medical changes’. Each time they are successful, these campaigns are referenced and used politically by other countries.
It is vital that trans people and our allies make submissions, and present a unified voice where possible.
Example submission based on recent discussions among trans people. This includes the relevant questions from the consultation document.
Q7. Gender by default principle
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the gender by default principle in the proposed standard? a. Strongly agree b. Agree c. Neutral d. Disagree e. Strongly disagree For details see Proposed solution – ‘gender by default’ principle.
Q8. Please explain the reason for your rating:
Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) proposes that the ‘gender by default’ principle is adopted in the updated standard. This is an approach that defaults to the use of gender data as opposed to sex assigned at birth. Collection of sex assigned at birth information should be viewed as an exception. Rare occasions where you might need this are for identifying the size of the trans population in population-based surveys or when this might be useful for trans people’s health. We support this principle, because it respects people’s dignity and right to self-determination. In almost all cases, a person’s gender – their social and personal identity based on lived experience – is most relevant for data collection purposes. Having a person’s ‘biological sex’ or sex assigned at birth as the default in data collection causes harm to trans people and also makes it impossible for non-binary people to be counted in official statistics.
We believe that in many cases in Aotearoa New Zealand people are asked about their gender when it’s not at all clear why this information is needed. In some situations, such as with banks and other organisations which require security, collecting data on gender creates additional barriers for trans people whilst only providing minimal added security. We agree with SNZ that people should carefully consider whether they even need to collect gender data.
We believe that SNZ should provide guidance about removing sex data in admin records when we move to gender as the default. We are aware this is a problem in places such as schools where gender data is already collected by default, but because school databases require proof of New Zealand residence, sex details on birth certificates are also routinely collected and have become the default.
Q9. ‘Gender’ concept definition
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed definition for gender? a. Strongly agree b. Agree c. Neutral d. Disagree e. Strongly disagree For details see Proposed solution – an overarching concept of ‘gender’.
Q10. Please explain the reason for your rating:
SNZ proposes the following gender definition: ‘Gender refers to a person’s social and personal identity as male, female, or another gender such as non-binary. Gender may include how a person describes themselves (‘gender identity’), and/or the gender a person publicly expresses (‘gender expression’) in their daily life. A person’s current gender may differ from the sex recorded at their birth and may differ from what is indicated on their current legal documents. A person’s gender may change over time. Some people may not identify with any gender.’
We agree with this definition in that it includes trans men in the category of “men” and trans women in the category of “women” and welcome that it allows for more that two genders and notes that gender may change over time and some people might have no gender.
We would also prefer that this definition emphasised that everyone has the right to self-define their gender (without any need to undergo medical, legal or other coercive steps).
Q11. Another gender
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the use of ‘Another gender’ in the standard? a. Strongly agree b. Agree c. Neutral d. Disagree e. Strongly disagree For details see: Proposed solution – ‘another gender’ in gender question.
Q12. Please explain the reason for your rating:
We agree that SNZ’s proposed term ‘another gender’ is more accurate than the previous ‘gender diverse’ term. We are concerned that ‘another gender’ might be ‘othering’ of those people who are not male or female. The gender concept definition recognises “some people may not identify with any gender”. SNZ should consider whether to clarify in guidance whether ‘agender’ and ‘genderqueer’ (or people who don’t identify with any named gender) would be included under the ‘Other gender’ option.
Q13. Two-step method
To what extent to you agree or disagree with use of the two-step method in the standard? 1. Strongly agree 2. Agree 3. Neutral 4. Disagree 5. Strongly disagree For details see Proposed solution – two-step method for identifying transgender and cisgender populations. Sex and gender identity statistical standards: Consultation
Q14. Please explain the reason for your rating:
We agree with the use of the two-step method in the updated standard.
This involves asking a question about sex assigned at birth, combined with a question on gender. The two-step approach is considered best practice for use in population representative data collections, where reflecting the transgender population is required. It is also the approach implemented by Statistics Canada in some of their surveys.
The SNZ consultation document notes a trans status question as an alternative to the two-step method. We agree that including a trans/cisgender status question is appropriate because we believe that for most data collection, using this question is more appropriate than the two-step method. The discussion document already notes that the wording of a trans status question may not be inclusive of all people, and we note that it may not reveal data on intersex people, some of whom are transgender and some of whom are not.
We believe that SNZ should consider whether a trans/cisgender status question should include the option for people to identify as cisgender, to make it consistent with other demographic questions which name the majority group (e.g., ‘straight/heterosexual’, ‘Pākehā’). This would help to build knowledge about the word cisgender and help cisgender people to be able to reflect on their own experiences and how they differ to trans people and help trans people to feel less like an anomaly. We are not aware of any previous use of a question like this and we note that this would require the term ‘cisgender’ to be explained in the guidance notes.
We believe SNZ should provide guidance about what the pros and cons of a trans/cisgender status question instead of the two-step method if we need to identify if somebody is trans or cisgender. For example, a question about trans/cisgender status should be most appropriate for most demographic data collection purposes, but a two-step method would be more appropriate for research on the demand for gender affirming healthcare.
Q15. ‘Sex at birth’ concept definition
To what extent do you agree or disagree with use of the sex at birth concept in the standard? a. Strongly agree b. Agree c. Neutral d. Disagree e. Strongly disagree For details see Ambiguity in the current sex standard.
Q16. Please explain the reason for your rating:
SNZ proposes introducing a specific definition and question module based on ‘sex at birth’ for use in surveys, used solely in the two-step method (where identifying trans populations is required). Sex at birth refers to the sex assigned to and recorded at a person’s birth (e.g. recorded on their original birth certificate).
This proposal improves the current sex concept definition which is binary, focused on biological sex and outdated, i.e.: “the distinction between males and females based on the biological differences in sexual [sic] characteristics”.
While we are aware of international evidence, mostly from North America, that the two-step method is a useful way of identifying the trans population, we note that most of that evidence has been collected from a question that asks about sex assigned at birth. We believe that from a transgender community perspective, the most appropriate wording would be “sex assigned at birth”; this is the commonly used phrase used in transgender communities because it names the coercive social process that we experience from other people and our society. We believe that other phrases like “sex at birth” and “sex recorded at birth” are too neutral and they do not name this harm. Official identification documents, primarily birth certificates, are one of the primary tools used for assigning sex at birth and coercively enforcing binary genders. Many trans and intersex organisations and human rights bodies are increasingly advocating that registration of sex and gender in identity documents should cease.
We are also very concerned that the phrases “sex at birth” and “biological sex” reinforce transphobic arguments that this is a person’s ‘original’ or ‘true’ sex. We note that everybody is assigned a sex, usually based on a cursory physical examination at birth.
Similarly, we would prefer that the proposed SNZ definition of gender noted that transgender people include those whose gender is different from their ‘sex assigned at birth’ rather than their ‘sex recorded at birth’ (this is discussed further below).
We are aware that many trans people find it difficult or upsetting to be asked about their sex assigned at birth. However, many trans people also understand that this is sometimes necessary when there’s a clear need to ask this. We believe that SNZ should make it clear that if an agency or organisation wants to a person about their sex assigned at birth, they must only do this when the reasons are clearly justified, such as accurately representing the size of the trans population in a population-based survey, or for understanding the number of trans people who were assigned male at birth or assigned female at birth for healthcare access reasons. SNZ should clearly note that when collecting information about an individual for individual purposes (not nationally representative data collection), a transgender status question is more appropriate eg. ‘are you transgender?’. This could be done by adding another step in the guidance diagram saying “do you need to accurately count the size of the transgender population in a population-based survey and differentiate between transmasculine people (who were assigned female at birth) from transfeminine people (who were assigned male at birth)”; this guidance should also stress the very limited times when that might be useful, and that it is unnecessarily invasive to ask this in almost all circumstances.
Many trans people will not want to disclose their sex assigned at birth. Any medical information about a person being transgender should be treated with confidentiality. Trans people have the right to choose whether to disclose this information, to access any such information held by others, and to place restrictions on who else can access this information.
In clinical settings, this is clinical information which should never be default information collected in a patient’s administrative records. Patients’ administrative records should be based on a person’s self-defined gender.
It would be unacceptable for sex at birth to become the default option, regardless of how this was defined.
We believe that SNZ should provide guidance that a sex assigned at birth question is voluntary, and information is given about the ways that the anonymised data collected from this in SNZ surveys can be used.
Q17. Intersex information needs
To what extent do you agree or disagree that this approach will meet information needs for the intersex population? 1. Strongly agree 2. Agree 3. Neutral 4. Disagree 5. Strongly disagree For details see Collection of intersex population data is complex.
Q18. Please explain the reason for your rating:
We propose adoption of an intersex variation question where intersex population data is required.
Where intersex population data is required, international best practice is to use a separate question asking whether a person was born with an intersex variation.
Q19. Further information we might like to share –
Is there any other information you would like to share to assist us in the review of these standards?
Based on this human rights approach, Statistics NZ should ensure that the expert advisory group convened to provide input to the consultation document also reviews the process used to analyse the feedback received. We encourage broadening the membership of that group to include Gender Minorities Aotearoa, to ensure more trans women and takatāpui participation. We note that Gender Minorities Aotearoa is the organisation with the highest number of transgender and intersex engagements across the country. It is important that there remains an ongoing process for consultation between trans, intersex and other Rainbow communities and SNZ.
We also suggest that SNZ undertake work toward meaningful integration of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the sex and gender data collection standards. For example, having separate standards for sex, gender, and sexuality seems to align most closely with Pākehā understandings of these concepts. We believe that it is important for people to have the option to endorse terms and personhood concepts that are from the tangata whenua of Aotearoa.
It may be more appropriate for Aotearoa to develop identity standards and classifications that recognise there are culturally specific Māori, as well as Pasifika, identities and terms that convey a mix of gender and/or sexual diversity. We are aware that members of the kaupapa Māori rainbow organisation Tīwhananwhana Trust – which advocates for takatāpui – have shared some cultural touchpoints for this current review, specifically; tātau tātau and kōtahitanga for collective inclusivity, motuhake for uniqueness, tino rangatiratanga the power to choose, manaakitanga enhancing the process of assistance – or what GMA would consider ‘uplifting the humanity’ of trans people, aroha – empathy and compassion, mana as individual and collective prestige (in this context). These cultural touchpoints are crucial for this work and a broader review of these and other standards and classifications so that they are appropriate for Aotearoa New Zealand.
Read the full document and info sheet and make a submission here [link]
Huge thanks to the NZ Human Rights Commission for their newly released report PRISM.
”Prism explores six human rights issues relating to people with a diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
It highlights that ”The human rights principle of self-declaration for identity documents is not yet fully implemented; it applies for passport and drivers’ licence records but not for birth certificates.”
The report makes 31 recommendations for resolving the six disparities in human rights for people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.
SOGIESC stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics.
Summary of Findings:
THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM FROM DISCRIMINATION (ARTICLE 2, UDHR)
• The Human Rights Act 1993 does not provide explicit legal protection from discrimination with regards to gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics. • Overt and subtle forms of discrimination are widespread against people with an actual or perceived diverse SOGIESC, and they are more likely to become victims of crime.
THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION (ARTICLE 19, UDHR)
• Unmet information needs are a considerable obstacle for the identification and resolution of issues concerning people with a diverse SOGIESC. • Data collection does not currently reflect a human rights-based approach. This is particularly clear in response options that limit diverse answers and the ability of SOGIESC-diverse people to be counted.
THE RIGHT TO RECOGNITION BEFORE THE LAW (ARTICLE 16, ICCPR)
• New Zealand’s official identity documents contain sex/gender information which can be difficult to correct for transgender, non-binary, and intersex people. • The human rights principle of self-declaration for identity documents is not yet fully implemented; it applies for passport and drivers’ licence records but not for birth certificates. • The current process to amend sex on a birth certificate requires meeting a medical threshold and the involvement of the Family Court, presenting barriers to having a child, enrolling in school, getting married, and other areas of life.
THE RIGHT TO THE HIGHEST ATTAINABLE STANDARD OF HEALTH (ARTICLE 12, ICESCR)
• Surgical interventions not required for the preservation of life continue to be performed on people with diverse sex characteristics before an age at which they can consent to these procedures. • People with a diverse SOGIESC have poorer physical and mental health outcomes than the general population. • Healthcare practitioners and providers often lack the training to meet the needs of SOGIESC-diverse service users. • Gender affirming healthcare is difficult to access and highly dependent on geographical residence.
THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION (ARTICLE 26, UDHR)
• Young people have a right to learn about diversity in SOGIESC. The New Zealand Curriculum allows for such learning within health education, but this is not adequately integrated into practice in schools. • For youth with a diverse SOGIESC, school is often not a safe environment in which they can thrive and learn. • Youth with a diverse sexual orientation or gender identity are, respectively, three and four-and-a-half times as likely as other students to be bullied.
THE RIGHT TO WORK (ARTICLE 23, UDHR)
• People with a diverse SOGIESC experience discrimination and bullying in the workplace. • The most common complaint received by the Human Rights Commission on the ground of sexual orientation is related to discrimination in employment. • A significant percentage of people with a diverse SOGIESC do not feel safe enough or fear discrimination at work or when applying for jobs. They often conceal their identities or partners for fear of discrimination if these details are disclosed to others in their work environments.