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Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Suzanne Levy, January 2023

In November 2021, the Department of Statistics sought feedback on their LGBTQ Statistics reporting changes. These proposed changes included collecting sex and gender data but using the "gender as the default" method for reporting...

The result seemed to be that there was no way to differentiate between a lesbian and a man who said he was a same-sex attracted woman...I sought confirmation...

Below is an email conversation I had with a he/him from stats...

Suzanne Levy <suzanne@*****.***.**>29 November 2021 at 19:15

To: "" <>


I cannot understand how collecting data on sexual orientation (possibly ridiculously rebranded by you to sexual identity, I’m not quite sure) is related to data on gender identity.

Same sex attraction is a fact, gender identity is a feeling and the two groups face totally different issues. They should be counted separately.

Ask yourself this; What does a 16 year old lesbian have in common with a 50 year old male who says he feels like a woman?

Say it out loud, say it to the person sitting next to you (or 2m away), say it to your mum, say it a few times and you’ll realise the 16 year old lesbian will not have her needs met by being included in a group that includes 50 year old males. Are you doing it so that the gender identity group has larger representation perhaps? Please do collect the data - it’s important that we know how many same sex attracted people are in Aotearoa and it’s important that we know how many people identify as a gender that doesn’t match their biological sex.

But the data is separate. Please don’t use the word cisgender in any survey, ever. It’s offensive and is a pathetic attempt to make people feel guilty for being the sex they are. Just stop it. Please. For your statistics - I’m a woman and a lesbian. Cheers


Mike <****>2 December 2021 at 15:47

To: "suzanne@*****.***.**" <suzanne@*****.***.**>

Cc: Communications - Shared Mailbox <>

Kia ora Suzanne Thank you for your feedback and interest in this report. We are conscious of the diversity among different components of the LGBT+ population. To this end the report included tables with detailed breakdowns across different dimensions, for example table 3a – available at - provides data separately on transgender and non-binary people, and those who identify with a sexual minority – these are further broken down by age bands. The approach taken in preparing the report, and many of the terms within it, draw on the statistical standard for gender, sex, and variations of sex characteristics which was widely consulted on, but we appreciate feedback as we continue to refine how we present insights from these questions. Ngā mihi Mike Mike (pronouns: he/him/his) Acting Manager / Principal Analyst | Kaiwhakahaere / Kaitātari Matua Wealth & Expenditure | Ngā rawa me ngā whakapaunga Social & Population Insights | Ngā Mātau Pāpori me te Taupori Stats NZ | Tatauranga Aotearoa | About Aotearoa, for Aotearoa Data that improves lives today and for generations to come


Suzanne Levy <suzanne@*****.***.**>2 December 2021 at 16:02

To: ****

Thanks Mike, Can you tell me from the data what percentage of the LGBT+ population are lesbian? Given that the data seems to use the word Gender instead of Sex it's impossible to tell what % of the "female" category are actually female and therefore lesbian. Lesbian and gay are same-sex attracted sexual orientations so a transgender woman cannot be a lesbian. So the data I am after is the percentage of biological females who are gay. Can you point me to that please? Many thanks, Suzanne Levy


Mike <****>3 December 2021 at 14:22

To: Suzanne Levy <suzanne@*****.***.**>

Kia ora Suzanne, From the survey, approximately 1 percent of adult females responded that they think of themselves as "gay or lesbian" (see question below). If you add those that selected “bisexual” or “other” this brings the total to approximately 4 percent. Survey question Which option below best describes how you think of yourself? 1. heterosexual or straight 2. gay or lesbian 3. bisexual 4. other 5. don't know 6. prefer not to say Aku mihi Mike


Suzanne Levy <suzanne@*****.***.**>3 December 2021 at 14:29

To: Mike <****>

Excellent. Possibly. What is the definition of female though? It looks from table 3A like it includes transgender women in which case the stats are substituting gender for sex. Please confirm. Thanks


Mike <****>3 December 2021 at 14:35

To: Suzanne Levy <suzanne@*****.***.**>

Kia ora Suzanne Consistent with the “gender by default” principle set out in the “Statistical standard for gender, sex, and variations of sex characteristics”, this includes all adult respondents who indicated that their gender is female.


Suzanne Levy <suzanne@*****.***.**>3 December 2021 at 14:43

To: Mike <****>

Yep - so that's a problem and it is incredibly homophobic to record a male as a lesbian, regardless of how he sees himself. Stats are collected to help with planning and various things - what use is this statistic if it doesn't count the group that it claims to? The group that any reasonable person would assume was being counted in this data? How can we consider health needs of lesbians if we don't know who they are? Should we be suggesting prostate cancer checks or cervical smears? Changing the meaning of the word female to include biological males is nonsense and will create meaningless statistics.


Mike had nothing more to add but Stats NZ are still consulting on this and I'm sure Mike would love to hear from you - the links are here.


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