Forty percent of Australian Catholics believe there are more than two genders, according to results from a new study.
The Australia Talks National Survey recently reported that 40 percent of Catholics either strongly agree or somewhat agree that “there are more than two genders.” In opposition are the 29 percent of Catholics who “strongly disagree” with that statement and the 13 percent who disagree. 16 percent of respondents are neutral and 3 percent “don’t know.”
The National Survey was administered by the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC News), and it reported statistics for Australians overall, reporting out certain religious findings. When asked if there are more than two genders, the population at large was divided: “Forty-five percent of Australians somewhat or strongly agree that there are more than two genders, however, 38 percent disagree and 15 percent are neutral.”
ABC News‘ definition of gender explained, “At birth, everyone is assigned a sex, male or female, based on their genitals. Gender is the identity society typically expects of people who’ve been assigned to those two categories.” The outlet explained further that gender identity is not always the sex assigned at birth, especially for those who identify as transgender or non-binary.
The National Survey took this into consideration by asking respondents to agree or disagree with this statement: “People should be referred to by the gender pronoun they identify with (“he”, “she”, “they”, etc.) even if it differs from the one assigned to them at birth.” While the first question asks about gender, this second question addresses the idea of self-determination of gender. Researchers deduced that “nearly 60 percent agreed (strongly or somewhat) with the statement, while 23 percent disagreed and 16 percent were neutral.”
ABC News commented on the survey, “Not surprisingly, agreement was lower among religious people than those with no religion.”
Dr. Elizabeth Riley, a gender identity specialist at the University of Tasmania, further commented that her experience with religious communities is different than the negative views groups like the Vatican have of transgender people.
Australians seem to agree that, despite religious teachings–Catholic or otherwise– people are more accepting when the attention is focused on keeping children safe. Dr. Riley expanded:
“’On the ground, in the schools where the principals are, the Catholic dioceses, they can see and meet the children and they know from the research that they need to look after the children and not place them at risk. Across all religions, it does not matter whether they are Jewish, Muslim, which country they come from, they all see the need to protect children. . .”’The truth is that the people who are negative about it, they have probably never met a trans child…When I do the training, I just see the shades go up. They didn’t realise this is what it meant.’”
While she is actively exposing people’s ignorance to queer and trans identities, she expressed that, still “there has been so much negativity and misinformation in the past that when people start to meet trans people, they realise it is just another way of being human.” If more conservative members of the population can get to know people in the LGBTQ community, a transformative change in the way gender is viewed could slowly shift.
“We’ve had a lot of less-than-positive coverage of transgender and gender diversity issues lately,” Damien Riggs, psychology professor at Flinders University, commented. When assessing the general Australian population he “was surprised at the level of agreement that there are more than two genders,” especially “in the face of that negative coverage.” Despite what the media portrays, “this shows that people are supportive of the right of other people to self-determination.”
—Emily Win, May 3, 2020