Thursday 19 July 2018

CSO reviews its gender options for 2021 census and may recognise those who don't identify as male or female

The national statistical office is reviewing its box-ticking gender options for the 2021 census. (stock photo)
The national statistical office is reviewing its box-ticking gender options for the 2021 census. (stock photo)

Alan O'Keeffe

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is assessing whether it will move to recognise and statistically record citizens who identify themselves as neither male nor female.

The national statistical office, tasked with impartially collecting, analysing and publishing data about Ireland's people, society and economy, is reviewing its box-ticking gender options for the 2021 census. The traditional male or female choice looks likely to be widened by new definitions of gender.

The CSO has received a number of submissions from groups such as Transgender Equality Network Ireland and the organisation for young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people named BeLonG To.

A CSO spokeswoman said that for many years the CSO has received telephone calls from members of the public having difficulty with having just the male or female choices on their census forms.

"If someone had an issue, we would advise that person that they could tick both the male and female boxes or else tick none of the boxes," she said.

Their returned census form would then be entered by the CSO into a process where a gender was chosen by a random selection method so that the census entry process could be completed.

The next national census will be held in 2021 and the choice of possible gender answers on the form is to be reviewed and finalised before the forms are issued to the public.

The CSO has decided to assess the need for change in a series of smaller surveys.

Household surveys to be carried out in thousands of homes in the first three months of next year will include specific questions on gender which are expected to go beyond the usual picking of a pronoun.

A CSO statement to the Sunday Independent said: "CSO currently asks respondents to specify their sex, male or female. CSO has engaged with stakeholder groups to explore the development of statistics on gender identity.

"As part of this, CSO is planning an assessment of the inclusion of specific questions on gender identity in its household surveys."

These questions will be asked in a household survey on equality and discrimination.

The size of Ireland's transsexual and inter-sex population is not known.

The HSE defines transsexual as someone whose gender identity is 'opposite' to the sex assigned to them at birth.

Inter-sex is defined by the HSE as "individuals who cannot be classified using the medical norms of so-called male and female bodies".

The health authorities state that 'gender fluid' people experience different gender identities at different times.

The HSE website states "A gender fluid person's gender identity can be multiple genders at once, then switch to none, or move between single gender identities."

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has launched a consultation process under a review of the Gender Recognition Act 2015.

The Act allows a person to legally change gender and provides for the preferred gender of a person to be fully recognised by the State.

Among the areas covered in the review were arrangements that might be made for persons of a "non-binary gender" who identified themselves as being neither male nor female.

Sunday Independent

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