The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently launched its guidance about how it will ask about trans, including non-binary, people’s gender in this year’s rehearsal for the 2021 Census in England and Wales. We’re optimistic that the 2021 Census will deliver much-needed data on the trans and non-binary population in England and Wales.
The sex question, in place since 1801, will continue to be asked to help ensure robust equalities monitoring for the benefit of public services, such as health. Fortunately, the guidance asks that people respond using their lived sex, whether that corresponds to what is on their birth certificate or not.
This is good news for trans people who may otherwise have been concerned that – in the absence of a fitting system of legal gender recognition – there may have been an expectation to respond with sex as assigned at birth, regardless of the realities of their current, lived experience.
The Gender Recognition Act remains outdated and in urgent need of reform, meaning many men and women have sexes marked on their birth certificate that do not match the realities of their lived experience.
The ONS guidance hopes to tackle any potential confusion and is welcomed by Gendered Intelligence for allowing trans people to clearly define their sex.
However, non-binary people will, unfortunately, continue to be obliged to respond to the sex question in the census rehearsal with a binary ‘male’ or ‘female’ answer. The legal obligation to complete all mandatory questions in the Census – of which sex is one – will put some non-binary people in an uncomfortable position.
On a positive note, for the first time there will be a voluntary question on gender identity, offering a space where non-binary status and other aspects of gender identity can be defined.
Gendered Intelligence warmly welcomes the introduction of a gender identity question, allowing policymakers, government and charities to hopefully get a clearer snapshot of how many trans and non-binary people there are in the UK.
Whilst it is disappointing that the question will be asked only of those aged 16 and over – and will not offer any clarity as to what we believe is an acute crisis of under-resourcing for trans children and young people – we welcome the data that will emerge from the census as hopefully illuminating.