Flat White

Statistics, like gender, are now fluid too?

26 February 2019

7:32 AM

26 February 2019

7:32 AM

My son came home from his private church school the other day and made a startling declaration. “Dad, do you know what we learnt today in PDHPE (that’s Personal Development, Health and Physical Education, for the uninitiated)? We learnt 11 per cent of people in Australia are of a diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity.” When I challenged him on the accuracy of the stated statistic his response was, “No, it’s legit. It’s based on a government website”. And true to his word, he referred me to the official website of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which indeed, provides the following statement:

But for some reason, my ‘spider senses’ started tingling that something was not quite right. Maybe that’s because there are over twenty-five million people currently in Australia and—anecdotally at least—I just couldn’t see how the alleged figure of 11 per cent was true. Because that would mean that over 2.5 million people are something other than heterosexual, a statistically massive figure. So, I decided to do some digging, and this is what I found.

The basis of the claim that “about one in 10 (11 per cent) of Australians are of diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity” is from a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission which can be found here. However, when you check the footnote in which they give for the magical 11 per cent figure it sends you to another website for “Aging and Aged Care” produced by the Commonwealth Department of Health under the Gillard government (also available here).

But here’s the thing. It also doesn’t provide any references or sources to back up this claim! So, we effectively have a circular process of validation going on. Well, now I was really intrigued. And so, I decided to do my own #factcheck with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Thankfully, the Sex and Gender Diversity 2016 Census is freely available on the web. And again, this is what I found:

Now, it should be noted that the report found that the 2016 Census counted 1,260 sex and/or gender diverse people in Australia. However, they concluded that:

This count is not considered to be an accurate count, due to limitations around the special procedures and willingness or opportunity to report as sex and/or gender diverse. People who have been treated with disrespect, abuse and discrimination because of their sex or gender may be unwilling to reveal their sex in an official document.

That is why they also include, “multimarks with no text (b) as well as “other responses – clearly not an intended sex or gender diverse response (c)” all of which expands the final total to 10,040 rather than the original figure of just 1,260.

Now, this figure does not also include people who identify as being in an LGBTI relationship. But, thankfully, the statistics for that have also been helpfully provided by the ABS here:

Now, if we pull together all of these figures together we find that—according to the ABS—as of 2016, Australia had 10,040 people who were ‘gender diverse’, 43,627 who were in a de-facto same-sex relationship and 3,142 who reported as being husband and wife. Altogether, this gives a figure of 102,858 individuals. This was at a time when the total population was 23, 401, 890, which gives us a final percentage of 0.4 per cent, well below the mythical 11 per cent figure being quoted by the government.

Obviously, one aspect that is missing in the official government data are how many people are homosexual and not in a same-sex relationship. According to research conducted by Tom Wilson and Fiona Shalley, from Charles Darwin University, and published in Australian Population Studies, estimate that:

Australia’s non-heterosexual population aged 18+ in 2016 is estimated to have been 592,000, representing about 3.2 per cent of the adult population.

Note that not only does this figure include homosexuals who are also in a same-sex relationship, but the figure of 3.2 per cent refers specifically to the adult, and not total, population. However, even then, that only gives a statistic of approximately 2.6 per cent. All of which is to say that the statement that, “11 per cent of people in Australia are of a diverse sexual orientation, sex or gender identity” is grossly misleading.

Historically, the mythical figure of 10 per cent of the population being identified as homosexual can be traced back to the now discredited research of Alfred Kinsey.

More recently, though, after a thorough examination of the statistical evidence, Professor Patrick Parkinson—currently the Dean of the University of Queensland Law School—concluded:

The 10 per cent figure cited in Australian data cannot be validated by any reliable research, even if it refers only to adolescents…

Before going on to state:

Safe Schools made the claim that 10 per cent of the entire population is same-sex attracted (not just adolescents). This is simply not the case. Large-scale surveys in recent years (when homosexual orientation has become normalised and therefore much less likely to be a matter which people fail to disclose) put the figures on same-sex orientation in the adult population as between 1 per cent and 3 per cent. One of the largest studies ever conducted was a survey of 238,206 respondents in Britain in 2009-10. It found that 0.9 per cent of the population identified as lesbian or gay, persons aged 15 years or older, 1.4 per cent identified as gay or lesbian, and another 1.4 per cent as bisexual.

This is a serious matter indeed.

If government agencies cannot be trusted to accurately report the facts, then who can we trust – and, perhaps more importantly, what is their flawed material doing in schools?

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.

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