On 29 November 2018, the junk news site News Punch (formerly Your News Wire) published an article reporting that Australia was on the verge of placing “33 genders on passports” for citizens to choose from. The story began circulating again on social media in late March 2019, prompting readers to ask if it was true. It is not.
According to News Punch’s story, “Australia is preparing to introduce at least 33 different gender options on birth certificates and passports, as part of a new anti-discrimination policy. The Australian Labor Party have drafted the initial proposal, which includes options such as omnigender, neutrios and demigender.”
The News Punch report was the result of a game of telephone, based on a source that was unreliable to begin with. The report was aggregated from a 26 November 2018 story published by the Daily Mail, which in turn was based on an article published by Australia’s Daily Telegraph, the latter of which has apparently since been deleted. (We sent an email to the Daily Telegraph asking whether it was deleted, and why, but we have not received a response.)
We found no legitimate news outlets reporting that Australia was on the precipice of introducing 33 new genders for citizens to choose from on government forms and documents. Instead, in November 2018 the Australian Labor Party (the center-left opposition party) drafted a proposal to remove gender from birth certificates and passports altogether — a proposal that was slapped down by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The News Punch story was published in the lead-up to the Labor Party’s 18 December 2018 annual conference. Although the party’s platform made reference to ensuring social equality for people who fell outside binary gender identities, the platform didn’t refer to 33 distinct genders, nor did it mention “omnigender, neutrios and demigender.”
The idea of “33 genders” probably originated with a 2016 survey conducted by the Queensland University of Technology, which offered respondents 33 different choices to answer the question, “Which of the following terms do you feel best describes your gender?” Omnigender, neutrois (not neutrios, as misspelled by NewsPunch) and demigender were among those options. (The possible responses were not all distinctly different genders: for example, some of them were descriptive terms for gender in general, and some of them were duplicative terms for expressing the same gender concept.)
Fear-mongering over changing social norms in regards to gender was also the focus of a January 2019 false rumor spread by various websites that California was going implement a curriculum to teach students that were 15 different genders.