How many trans people?

It depends on what you mean by trans people: people with gender recognition certificates, people living full time in a new gender, people who would like to transition but for insuperable difficulties, people who cross-dress…

Is the number growing? There are no clear answers. The Office for National Statistics has no established estimates. The census of 2011 had a question asking sex, giving the options male or female. I am non-binary. There was no question on that.

Since 2005, only a few thousand people have received gender recognition certificates, but they are expensive, and require a specialist psychiatrist’s letter. Many might not bother, but would get a GRC after self-certification. About two hundred trans people a year have genital operations on the NHS, about the number of new GRCs.

Many more people might call themselves transgender. The ONS puts it at 0.5-1%, or about half a million people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission put it at 1%.

Ten years ago the government commissioned the Gender Identity Research and Education Society, GIRES, to estimate the number of trans people. They considered passports, which can be changed as soon as you transition. They estimated 300,000-500,000 people experiencing some degree of gender variance. Many would not act on that, or might dress at home. It’s about feelings, not actions. If you are unhappy with your assigned gender, and have to hide that, it affects you adversely.

In the next census, there should be a question on sex assigned at birth then a question on gender identity. If it asked “do you identify as a transgender person” not all the 500,000 people might say yes, and some might mock the question: the 2011 census question on religion identified 176,632 “Jedi knights”, down from 390,000 in 2001. Some are in denial, and some would not like to admit it. Many of that half million will never take any action to change their gender presentation.

Not all trans children come out to their parents, who would answer the census question on their behalf. The 2021 census will have to be designed soon.

The Yougov poll asked people to define their gender on a scale from 0, completely masculine, to 6, completely feminine. 2% of males aged 18-24 said they were “completely feminine”, 8% said they did not know, and 3% said they were neither masculine nor feminine. No females aged 18-24 said they were completely masculine, but 7% did not know and 10% said neither. More men had a negative than positive view of masculinity, but women were more positive. Both sexes were strongly positive about femininity. Only 28% of British men, but 42% of American men, said they were completely masculine.

I wonder how many women “wear the trousers” in their heterosexual relationship, but can’t find anyone even asking the question.

Most data from More or Less on Radio 4.

I calculated about 40,000 have transitioned in the UK. This is how I worked it out.

8 thoughts on “How many trans people?

  1. ‘Is the number growing?’ Yes, it is tricky to be sure and a big reason for that is that at the moment the understanding of Trans is improving, slowly, but there are trans people in soap operas occasionally and Big Brother, and generally the public have more of a clue, and this alone will make some trans people who would never have admitted to being trans on forms or to their friends and family do so as the climate changes. So there may simply be more people saying they are trans rather than an increase. I don’t think there are more gay folks, or straight folks, or bi particularly, so I can’t see why there’d be more trans, you are born as you are, after that it’s just understanding what that means.

    Esme cycling round the Cloud with Clare in the sun and flowers in their baskets x


  2. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we are about to undergo our five yearly census. Our new government is disappointed that there are no questions on gender identity or sexual orientation, and no time for them to be included. It’s something that has never been asked. However instructions have been given for such questions to be included in the 2023 census. It’s well overdue as without adequate information it’s not possible to provide adequate services. For example, current funding for gender reassignment surgery in Aotearoa New Zealand is adequate for only one operation per year.


      • A similar issue has arisen over housing where the previous government denied there was a housing crisis, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. A commission set up the the new government has just released its findings, painting an even more bleak picture than even the most pessimistic would have thought. It’s scandalous that a country that once lead the world in accommodating its citizens now has the highest rate of homelessness in the developed world. Before the elections the Labour Party pleged to construct 100,000 affordable homes. The head of the commission recommends the building of 500,000.


        • That is an appalling level of need for the size of population. The “Free market” is a complete disaster for housing. London has thousands of ghost flats, high spec apartment blocks with swimming pools, etc, but tiny rooms, bought up by foreign investors in a great bubble and never lived in, while professional people have to rent out single rooms.


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