The social life of data: strategies for categorizing fluid and multiple genders

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Gender Studies, 2022, pp. 1-15
Issue Date:
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Accurate data collection from LGBTIQ+ communities is crucial for public health research and the provision of equitable services. Emergent fluid, multiple, trans and non-binary gender identities complicate data collection in ways that make an excellent case-study for rethinking the categorization of such data. In this article, we explore some of the obstacles to collecting data from trans, gender-diverse and non-binary (TGD) communities, and the difficulties in synthesizing meaning about fluid or multiple identity categories. We review a selection of international surveys from the last 10 years and then present a case-study of data collection in an Australian mixed-methods study of LGBTQ+ young people’s uses of social media. In doing so we draw upon trans and gender diverse people’s lived experiences to reinterpret our survey dataset in which responses that ‘refused categorisation’ were initially removed. We argue that theorizing the ‘social life of data’ – that is analysing the disciplinary orientation and purpose of research, while also acknowledging the moment and site of data collection, the methods used, and the mutable meanings in play – better accounts for the lived experiences of gender beyond binary and static identities.
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