Who counts on Census day?

Having worked in a university I know quite directly how vital census information is. This information is the lifeblood of research and planning. Like the TV advertisement says – we use it to design our cities, plan our services, develop business plans, and even decide what language books to have in our libraries.

When filling out the forms this year I will be facing a personal dilemma because one of the first questions asks me to identify my gender as male or female. I do identify as female, but I know a significant number of people who do not identify as either male or female.

It’s a bit like telling me I can’t identify as Pākehā/European because the only options are Māori and Polish. That would be very confronting personally, I would wonder why the state didn’t acknowledge my existence to begin with, and I would also have quite legitimate concerns about the validity of the results.

For several years now, some transgender and intersex people and allies have been lobbying for more accurate gender options to ensure statistical rigour and not to force anyone to fit a box that is the wrong shape. Sadly this lobby hasn’t been successful which makes it really difficult for us to plan for the needs of our trans and intersex communities. There is now a two tick campaign asking people to tick both male and female to bring this issue directly to the statistics department.

While I understand, and respect, the two tick campaign I’m not sure I’ll be able to bring myself to tick both boxes, especially since Statistics New Zealand have said they’ll infer a binary gender based on my other answers.  I will however be pushing for our next census to finally reflect the reality of our gender diversity.

23 Comments Posted

  1. I wonder just how much the male/female stats change from one census to another. I doubt it varies more than a fraction. It’s probably one of the least interesting questions. But sexuality is an entirely different fish. A question(s) to obtain info on where along the straightqueer scale would be far more interesting.
    Demographers could have great fun with that data.
    I wonder, given your name is on the form, who would be honest though?

  2. Given the point of the census is, presumably, to collect information in order to undestand the make-up of the population and provide appropriate services and so forth, it makes little sense insisting that people write down their birth sex if they are living and identifying as something else.

    “There is straight and there is non-straight which is crooked .”

    Actually there is straight and a whole lot of variations on bendy, curvy, wavy, zig-zagy and wiggly. All have their charms, and their place in the great glorious tapestry of human confusion.

  3. Amen to that AMK, Greens are such FN hypocrites. They are all anti about things that are un-natural but are quite happy for people to have same sex marraiges, cut up their sexual bits, and have sex with people of the same sex.

    Its just disgusting and perverse and totally against natural genetics, these people are not normal.

    I will accept them as fellow human beings but I will never condone or ratify what they do as being normal.

    As a gun owner I get treated like some 2nd rate citizen with a mental problem by anti gun green hippy tree lovers, yet they seem ok with a couple of guys who want to ass f**k eachother (sodomy).

    HYPOCRITICAL TREE HUGGERS !!!.

  4. Everyone has their opinions . Even if there are other who disagree , people still have their opinions .

    In my humble opinion :

    Who counts on Census day ? Everyone who submit their census form counts !

    If a person is born a son then that person is male !

    If a person is born a daughter then that person is female !

    If a person surgically got sexual organ removed/changed , still every living cell in that persons body holds the gender information in organized structure called sex chromosomes .

    Being born as a son or as a daughter is normal . Anything other than this is abnormal . Yes extremely tiny percentage of population that are born abnormal . May be people in such situation need to appeal for an alternative than others making up blogs pages like this and people like me sitting and typing opinions . I have seen a documentary about people who are born with either both or none and it defenitely is a sensitive matter to those who are born like that .

    Somebody quoted above “Bar rare cases of people being born with 2 sets of sexual organs (hermaphrodite) you are either male or female” .

    Hoever Sexual orientation is entirely different . There is straight and there is non-straight which is crooked .

    To marry and have sex with a person of opposite sex is normal . Anything other than this is not straight and is crooked & perverse .

    …….

  5. I doubt there is ever a right and wrong answer to this question. Try completing a census in the UK and you are not allowed to be a European but are required to be a New Zealander. I personally have a mix of English, Irish, French, Moriori, New Zealand and Australian Aborigine blood in me. I always dislike the race question so put myself down as Australian Aboriginal (which only makes up one thirty second of my ancestry) as a form of protest. The majority of my blood is from New Zealand born (past 3 generations). The previous census I was Moriori. Not sure what I will be next time.

  6. I never heard Pacific Islanders, Asians, etc. referred to as ‘Pakeha’, when describing them in relation to Maori they are usually referred to as Tau Iwi.

    This is my understanding as well.

    Pākehā most definitely has racial as opposed to cultural connotations with the assumption that the subject is of direct European descent (though historically, restricted to those of British descent).

    It get’s a bit fuzzy around the edges (Would an Argentinian immigrant of mixed Spanish/Italian descent be Pākehā? What if you have English-Irish on one side and Turkish-German on the other?) but I think it’s pretty safe to use the modern term as a proxy for ‘White Person’.

    Tauiwi applies to “Everyone else born or resident in NZ who is not either Māori or Pākehā” as far as I know.

  7. I never heard Pacific Islanders, Asians, etc. referred to as ‘Pakeha’, when describing them in relation to Maori they are usually referred to as Tau Iwi. “Pakeha’ describes New Zealanders of European descent. I think the modern meaning of the term ‘Maori’ is well established, regardless of the pre-colonial meaning, so this is a bit of a red herring.

    “But you are proving my point exactly by your own refusal to recognise New zealand culture as also being a culture in it’s own right”

    I’m having trouble understanding what your point is, since you say you don’t mind describing yourself as being of European descent, and propose a question asking if people are Pakeha, but also say you object to describing yourself as New Zealand European or Pakeha. Is it just that you want a place on official forms to write ‘New Zealander’?

    The census question is asking about race, not culture. We could add another question to ask people what culture they identify with, it just seems a bit meaningless as so many people tend to have an emotional attachment to a cultural term which may not reflect the reality of their lives.

    I don’t agree with you that there is a New Zealand culture that is such a product of diverse influences that ‘European derived’ isn’t accurate. Sure, Pakeha (and others) are influenced by a diversity of cultures, but the overwhelming majority of our laws, language, day-to-day interactions and cultural forms follow those of Europe. I might go to the Chinese opera and use a longyi as a dressing gown, but these are minor things – I wouldn’t claim my culture to be significantly influenced by China or Burma (though a Malaysian friend keeps asserting I should marry a Malaysian due to my fondness for chilli and durian :)) It would be nice if we were more culturally internationalist, but I think it’s wishful thinking to suggest Pakeha have effectively left our European origins behind.

    “But if you wish us to refer to non Maori New Zealand culture as “European derived culture””

    I don’t – I was pointing out that as being ponderous and arguing for the term “Pakeha’.

    “i didn’t say more, or that questions relating to racial identity should be removed as you seem to persist in thinking despite my having clarified this already”

    OK, again I’m confused. If you want to advocate that an option of ‘New Zealander’ be included in the question on race, which is not a race and makes the stats useless – given we’ve no way of knowing what race a ‘New Zealander’ is – isn’t this much the same as removing the question altogether?

    “And New Zealand culture will not be recognised by people such as yourself until it is recognised in official documentation.”

    Hardly. I couldn’t give a toss what officialdom thinks. My thinking isn’t defined by the rubber stamp of a bureaucrat.

  8. I never identify with New Zealand European. It is totally unrepresentative of the fact that I am half Lebanese and Mum’s side is an English, Scottish, Welsh mix. So, I categorise myself as “other” (Anglo-Lebanese) or wrote, in this census, New Zealander of other origin. To place that as an option in the next census would be a headstart.
    The statisticians can do with it as they probably will but I don’t lose sleep over it. I know who I am and proud of it.

  9. I’ll just add Sam that, while I have really enjoyed this debate and my first comment, which was directed at Jan, and our subsequent discussion, is about an issue about which I am very serious, I do think that our discussion has continued off topic for too long and that we should step back and return things to the issue that people such as my oldest son, who was just forced to identify himself as female on this census, are facing. but thank you very much for the exchange of views 🙂

  10. Actually Sam, if you are wanting to get into semantics then Pakeha is not a “standard New Zealand English term” it is a maori word and actually means any New zealander of non Maori descent, ie. including “Chinese, Vietnamese, Somali, Turkish, Niuean cultures (and the rest)” and therefore not giving any of the racial information of which you are so interested in. Maori, on the other hand, simply means “the ordinary people” and was only used by the indigenous people to define themselves after the arrival of Europeans and only has racial meaning in relation to the word Pakeha (ie. it means “not pakeha”). before then people referred to themselves by iwi/tribe and there was no single term for the Maori people as a whole. So yes, using the term New Zealander rather than Pakeha is a matter of semantics. I do not wish to define myself by what I am not, but by what I am. And I am a New Zealander.

    And no I did not mean European derived culture. I used the term non Maori culture deliberately because New Zealand is a multi cultural not a ‘bi-cultural’ country. But if you wish us to refer to non Maori New Zealand culture as “European derived culture” (which is exactly the type of bias I am trying to avoid) then to be consistent you must also refer to Maori as “Polynesian derived culture” which would deny it recognition as a culture in it’s own right. But you are proving my point exactly by your own refusal to recognise New zealand culture as also being a culture in it’s own right, with influences from many different cultures (not just European) but which has evolved into something unique and not merely a ‘branch’ of European culture. And New Zealand culture will not be recognised by people such as yourself until it is recognised in official documentation.

    At the moment the question asking if you are of Maori ancestry has a subsection asking for information relating to which Iwi the person belongs to (if known). There is no reason why there could not be a section asking if you are a Pakeha and if so a subsection asking for racial ancestry if known. Then all of the racial information desired could still be gathered without alienating anyone.
    My preference for the term New Zealander, however is because it defines us by national identity not race and can include anyone of New Zealand nationality, Maori, European (after all NZ does have a very strong German population nowadays as well as people from many other European countries), “Chinese, Vietnamese, Somali, Turkish, Niuean cultures (and the rest)” and even myself. Perhaps you are right in insisting that this doesn’t belong in the census although I had thought that National identity would have as much relevance as racial identity (no, i didn’t say more, or that questions relating to racial identity should be removed as you seem to persist in thinking despite my having clarified this already), but even if it is not included in the census I do think that the option of identifying myself as a New Zealander, not simply as a “Non Maori” (ie Pakeha) is something that needs to be included in official documentation. And that is what I mean by ‘recognition’.

  11. Comparing sexual identity issues with GE food is rather like comparing an musical arrangement for a string quartet with the Apollo programme, so I don’t really know where to start.

  12. I find it funny how Greens get all uppity on things like genetic engineered food, yet they support tinkering with ones sexual bits and blurring the lines between male \ female.

    Bar rare cases of people being born with 2 sets of sexual organs (hermaphrodite) you are either male or female.

    Tick a blimmin box and move onto more serious issues please.

  13. “I was merely quoting my lecturer in LAWS 101 and did not go and check the treaty itself.”

    Ye Gods! I can’t say this much surprises me, but if even law lecturers haven’t read the Treaty, no wonder we are getting no place on understanding these issues.

  14. I’m not sure what you are getting at Debbie – if you are happy to identify yourself as of European ancestry (which is what defines race) what’s your problem with the census question? Is it just a matter of semantics?

    If we offer the option of ‘New Zealander’ – which isn’t a race – then we may as well not bother to collect the stats at all, as they won’t really tell us anything, which is what I was getting at above, with the references to Cuba et al. We could add another question, such as “What is your nationality?” it might be vaguely interesting to see how people here identify, but that’s quite different from a question about race.

    “New Zealand culture as a separate thing from European culture is frequently not even recognised as existing at all.”

    I’m not sure what recognition you want – most day-to-day activities take place within a Pakeha cultural framework. There is a de facto recognition if not an official one. And many Pakeha cultural practices are given official recognition in government protocols, ceremonials, required dress, etc.

    “all of our diverse groups deserve equal recognition”

    Agian, what do you mean by ‘recognition’? We can officially note the existence of any number of cultures, but in day-top-day life, practicality is gong to prevent us from giving due recognition, in our practices, to all the existing cultures.

    “I am not a Pakeha.”

    Well, if you are a New Zealander of European descent, you are. That’s what the word means. You are welcome not to use it, but it’s a standard New Zealand English term, so it seems a bit confusing. I mean, I could insist on referring to myself as Chinese (which I’m not) for some obscure reason, or demand to be referred to as “Toby the smelly crocodile”. We are all entitled to define our own identity, but it does seem a bit of a silly game to refuse to use words that are accurate. I mean, by “New Zealand non-Maori” culture, I presume you mean New Zealand European-derived culture, or more simply ‘Pakeha culture’, since ‘non-Maori’ would also include Chinese, Vietnamese, Somali, Turkish, Niuean cultures (and the rest) which clearly don’t form part of the same cultural group. Seems a mouthful to say ‘New Zealand European-derived’ rather than just ‘Pakeha’.

  15. Thank you Sam but I didn’t say that everyone should be forced to define themselves as New Zealanders, that would be as wrong as forcing me to define myself as European/Pakeha (oh, & I was using that term as a reference to Jan’s example and to official forms in general, not the census in particular). Nor did I say that those who identify themselves as being European/pakeha should be denied that option on official forms. I merely said that the option should be available for those that do identify as New Zealanders.

    As to the race question that was dealt with elsewhere in the census where it asked about ancestry and I am quite happy to identify my genetic ancestry as being of European stock. I was quite specifically referring to the question on ethnicity. I am aware that my ancestry is European, but I am not.

    And no, in general New Zealand non Maori culture is seen as being ‘European’ (and therefore ‘foreign’) despite the fact that it is as much different from any culture in Europe as Maori culture is from any other polynesian culture. I think that I did make it quite clear that Maori & non Maori culture are different and are treated differently. I did not say that they should be ‘merged’ somehow, simply that they should be recognised as being equally valid whereas New Zealand culture as a separate thing from European culture is frequently not even recognised as existing at all.

    I apologise if my reference to the treaty as saying that we were now ‘one people’ was erroneous. I was merely quoting my lecturer in LAWS 101 and did not go and check the treaty itself. Definitely my bad. But by that quote I was not trying to deny our cultural diversity, that would make us less than we are, I was merely saying that all of our diverse groups deserve equal recognition.
    I am not European. I am not a Pakeha. I am a New Zealander. And being able to identify as such regardless of race is very important to me.

  16. Agreed Sam.”New Zealander” is not an ethnicity. It’s a nationality. I don’t understand why this basic misunderstanding continues to fuel debate.

  17. “To me, having to choose between European/Pakeha and Maori does exclude me and all other people who identify as New Zealanders”

    Actually the census form doesn’t mention ‘Pakeha’.

    “Even the treaty itself specifies that we are ‘now one people’.”

    No it doesn’t.

    “we are treated as if there is NO New Zealand culture except Maori culture”

    Hardly. Pakeha culture forms the basis of our law, official ceremonies, expected day-to-day interactions between individuals and Pakeha arts get considerable recognition and funding.

    “Whats wrong with “New Zealander” or “Kiwi”?”

    Nothing, but it makes the question – which is being asked to determine New Zealand’s racial mix – rather pointless. ‘New Zealander’ isn’t a race.

    We could go down the Cuba route of keeping no statistics on race, but this practice is often criticised as a way to hide racism. You can note that Cuba’s ruling class appears to be almost all white, but since there are no clear statistics to determine the proportion of black Cubans, its hard to quantify the problem.

    “I object to my culture being treated as being less valid than Maori culture.”

    One can hardly complain about the supposed lack of recognition of non-Maori culture if you refuse to recognise that Maori and non-Maori are different racial groups. If we just call everyone ‘New Zealander’ then there is no ‘Maori’ culture, just a New Zealand one, what were once considered Maori cultural practices would become our common heritage, and nobody can complain if these practices are instituted as official or unofficial practice. That’s fine by me, but I think a lot of Pakeha would recoil from that.

  18. I’m always bugged by the race question using the oxymoronic term ‘European New Zealander’. No offence to the Europeans, but I ain’t one. What’s wrong with the good old Kiwi term ‘Pakeha’?

  19. Actually I disagree Jan, I think the race issue has very much in common with the gender one and that racial discrimination is still very much an issue in our country. I am not a European/Pakeha. I was born in New Zealand and AM a native New Zealander. And yet I am treated differently from those native New Zealanders of Maori descent and the distinction as used at present in official as well as social practice treats me as if, because my ancestors were European and my culture is not Maori my personal ‘New Zealandness’ and my culture as a new Zealander is treated as being less valid (indeed we are treated as if there is NO New Zealand culture except Maori culture). Why? I object very much to having to identify as being of European or Maori descent and I object to my culture being treated as being less valid than Maori culture. Even the treaty itself specifies that we are ‘now one people’. And yet the law treats us differently because of our race. I believe absolutely that it is as important to have an option to ‘not specify’ race, or to include “New Zealander” as an option, as it is to provide additional gender identity choices, including also the option to ‘not specify’ gender identity as well.
    To me, having to choose between European/Pakeha and Maori does exclude me and all other people who identify as New Zealanders in exactly the same way as your example specifies and I find it as personally confronting (and offensive) as you would if forced to choose between identifying yourself as either polish or maori when you identify as European/Pakeha.
    I also have to wonder why you think people who experience discrimination on the basis of their gender identity would not be able to understand that the sense of being forced into a racial category to which we don’t belong and that we have our actual racial identity dismissed as ‘non existant’ or non valid is not that different from their own situation.

  20. Thanks Samiam – I understand your point though personally I think there is a difference between ethnicity and nationality and I think the experience of an intersex person who has had to live with the medical and social consequences of someone else chosing their gender for them because they’re only allowed to be one or the other, as an example, may possibly see these issues as quite different.

  21. Whereas I object to filling out race.
    I’m a New Zealander
    No option to ‘I object’ available.

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