17 Jul 2015

'Gender diverse' joins 'male' and 'female'

2:12 pm on 17 July 2015

Statistics New Zealand is introducing an additional gender identity classification for use by government departments.

Census forms (file image).

Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The term 'gender diverse' will join 'male' and 'female' as a category for statistical purposes, including data collection.

It encompasses people who do not identify with traditional female or male boundaries, and does not relate to a person's biological sex.

Statistics New Zealand says the new standard is the first in the world for gender identity information and has been chosen in consultation with representative groups and government organisations.

The department is still considering exactly how the classification will be used.

Classifications manager Jo-anne Allan said it would not be relevant for all government agencies, but that some, like those related to health, did require information on gender identity.

"The term gender diverse is fairly new but we believe that over time it will be widely used and accepted. We recommend this term for official statistical use," she said.

"There's an increasing recognition that if you're going to ask about gender identity, asking in binary terms is no longer acceptable. Government needs to respect individuals and to be able to acknowledge that."

Rainbow Youth general manager Duncan Matthews said he hoped the change would help government and non-government organisations record data about non-binary individuals in a consistent way, particularly in the context of health.

"We currently don't actually capture correct information, as many people can't accurately record their gender identity on a form."

"Different generations prefer different terms: 'gender diverse' may not sit well with everyone, but it is hopefully encompassing of more identities than other terms that may be more specific."

The change will not have any implications for passports or driving licences, which have recognised non-binary gender identities since the end of 2012.

When applying, individuals are able to choose between M, F or X ('indeterminate/unspecified') when declaring their gender identity.

They must also complete a statutory declaration indicating how long they have maintained that identity, but are not required to have undergone any surgery or sex reassignment.

Statistics New Zealand said gender information was personal and should only be collected when there is a good reason to do so.

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