Researchers at the University of Waikato have been overwhelmed by the huge response to Counting Ourselves, a community-led survey on the health and wellbeing of trans and non-binary people in Aotearoa.
In three months, the online survey has been completed by more than 1000 people. This is already more than five times the number of people who contributed to the Human Rights Commission’s Transgender Inquiry report, published in 2008.
The survey is led by Dr Jaimie Veale, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Waikato who was awarded a $238,000 Health Research Council Emerging Researcher First Grant for this research. Dr Veale recently became the first New Zealander to be elected onto the executive board of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
“I share WPATH’s commitment to evidence-based care. In New Zealand, there is very little data about trans and non-binary people’s health needs and the types of support that make a real difference in people’s lives.
Our survey is long ─ on average, participants spend over an hour filling it out. People’s commitment to doing that shows how important this data is to our communities,” says Dr Veale.
Both Dr Veale and the project’s Research Officer Jack Byrne are also part of the international team of authors currently revising and rewriting WPATH’s Standards of Care. These standards outline international professional consensus about clinical care for trans and non-binary people. Both academics are also trans themselves.
Mr Byrne project-managed the Human Rights Commission’s Transgender Inquiry and since then has worked as a consultant with communities and governments across Asia and the Pacific on ways to ensure that trans and non-binary people are legally recognised and protected.
He says when the Transgender Inquiry report came out 10 years ago, many people were shocked by outdated laws, policies and practice that made it very difficult for trans and non-binary people to be safe at school or in public places. “It was hard for people to get jobs or housing, to access any form of gender affirming healthcare including hormones and surgeries, or to amend their identity documents.
“Since then there have been a few significant improvements, such as New Zealand’s passports policy. However, major gaps remain, particularly in accessing inclusive and affirming healthcare.” Both academics signed a recent Joint Statement supporting Government proposals to simplify the process for changing gender markers on birth certificates, so that it is similar to the administrative process introduced for passports in 2012.
Mr Byrne says the survey will provide information for community organisations, DHBs and policy makers about ways to reduce discrimination and to improve the health and wellbeing of trans and non-binary people today. This includes collating data on the level of unmet demand for gender affirming care, including access to hormones and surgeries.
The research team has worked closely with a Community Advisory Group to try to reach trans and non-binary people who may not be on social media or have links to community groups. “We’ve had responses from people in their teens through to their 90s, from all over Aotearoa,” says Dr Veale.
The survey can be filled out by anyone aged 14 or over whose gender differs from their sex recorded at birth. “People do not need to use the words ‘trans’ or ‘non-binary’ to describe themselves, and many people responding are choosing other, culturally-specific, terms from Aotearoa, the Pacific or Asia to describe who they are.”
Mr Byrne says when people from our communities speak up, the issues they raise are often ignored or they can be attacked personally on social media platforms. “This survey will produce robust evidence about trans and non-binary people’s health and wellbeing that cannot be so easily dismissed,” he says.
People have until 30 September to fill out the survey. “We hope that we will have the first results published in the first half of next year” said Dr Veale. People can fill out the survey by going to the website http://countingourselves.nz/ or text/call 021 048 1557 to be sent a paper copy.
Counting Ourselves website: http://countingourselves.nz/
Counting Ourselves Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NZTransHealthSurvey/
Joint Statement, ‘Changing the BDMRRA so it is fair for everyone, based on the existing passports policy’, 10 August 2018: https://genderminoritiesaotearoa.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/joint-statement_changing-the-bdmrra-so-it-is-fair-for-everyone.docx
Media release ‘Birth Certificate changes welcomed by takatāpui, trans and non-binary people’, 10 August 2018 https://genderminorities.com/2018/08/10/birth-certificate-changes-welcomed-by-takatapui-trans-and-non-binary-people/