Guest Post: Measuring Rainbows

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Measuring rainbows

Statistics New Zealand reports that more than 900 New Zealanders shared their views about how sexual orientation should be measured during a three-week public consultation which closed on 1 May.

Feedback will guide development of a new statistical standard to report in a consistent way on how people identify their sexuality.

explains that sexual identity refers to how each person thinks of his, her or whatever’s own sexuality and which terms they choose to identify with, including lesbian, gay, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, and asexual.

The department will analyse the responses, then work with other organisations to develop a new statistical standard for sexual identity. The final statistical standard for sexual identity will be released later this year.

A great deal of effort – and cost – apparently is being invested in this venture, although not soon enough for some people in the so-called rainbow community.
Howls of criticism followed the decision in January not to include gender-identity questions in this year’s census.

RadioLIVE aired the expostulations of one Aych McArdle (or should that be H.McArdle?), who demanded an “immediate investigation” into Stats NZ’s lack of action and asked if this was an example of “institutionalised homo/trans/intersex phobia”.

According to the RadioLIVE report at that time:

The LGBT community is slamming Statistics New Zealand after the decision to leave questions over sex, gender and sexuality out of the 2018 census.

Social activist Aych McArdle, who uses gender neutral pronouns, spoke to RadioLIVE on Friday and says they’re “absolutely flabbergasted” by the decision, despite more than 25 years of fighting for change.

“If you don’t count someone, you’re almost saying they don’t count,” they say.

Let’s wait and see how many are counted at the next census and in which categories.

For now, let’s note the numbers reported in the Stats NZ press statement and the remarks of the department’s products, services, and insights general manager, Dean Rutherford. He said.

“More New Zealanders have shared their thoughts with us than we’ve seen in any other recent public consultation.”

The headline on the press release amplified this:

“Strong interest in Stats NZ’s sexual orientation consultation”

According to Stats NZ, the estimated resident population of New Zealand is 4,844,200.

Generously lifting “more than 900” to 1000 for the purposes of our calculation, we find the number of New Zealanders who shared their views with the statisticians about how sexual orientation should be measured amounted to just 0.02 per cent of the population.

This gives a useful insight into the meaning of “strong interest” when the department calls for public comment. It also gives a hint of the numerical strength of the very vociferous rainbow lobby and those whose interests it is championing.

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