Counting trans people

In 2021, the British census will count trans and nonbinary people. In England and Wales, these are the questions people will see:

What is your sex?
A question about gender identity will follow later on in the questionnaire
[ ] Female
[ ] Male

Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?
This question is voluntary
[ ] Yes
[ ] No
(Enter gender identity)

The census put “female” first in 2011. Before, the standard was to put male first, and other forms asking sex or gender usually do; but in other census questions the answers were either alphabetical, or the largest group first, both of which would put female first. So the order was changed.

Possible questions were tested to see how well people understood them, as well as whether they objected. The researchers timed how long it took to pick a response. The second question took five seconds, compared to “What do you consider your gender to be?” which took fourteen. People objected strongly to the word “consider”. I say my gender is female. If I say “I consider my gender is female” that includes the possibility others might disagree.

Gender and sex are synonyms in English, and this introduces a distinction. The report on question development assumes we know what it is. Under definitions, it says “The sex question is binary: female and male”, so DSD people have a sex.

“The gender identity question is about a person’s personal internal perception of themselves.”

I don’t think it helpful to distinguish my “personal internal perception” and reality in this case. I am female. I would not say so if I weren’t. Those who are habitually disbelieved, such as prisoners, might lie, but people generally are truthful about such things.

However we dropped the word “transsexual” for “trans”, for various reasons: “transsexual” sounds impersonal and scientific, sounds like a sexual orientation, when it is different; and puts pressure on people to have genital surgery. “Transgender” is an acceptable word.

The annex says, “the gender category with which a person identifies may not match the sex they were registered at birth”. Most of the readers of this document, and the people answering the questions, are cis, and the writers are explaining to them as well as to us.

They explain trans includes binary and nonbinary trans, and non-gendered identities, and identity may be fixed or variable.

It’s not spelled out that sex means genes, gonads and genitals, and I will answer that my sex is female. Gender has to be wider, to include nonbinary people. When the question asked some variant on “Are you trans?” nonbinary people did not consistently include themselves.

To the cis, the document explains that the sex “question wording and response options are unchanged from the 2011 Census. We will continue to collect this data in a way that is consistent with previous censuses.” Well, I said my sex was female then, too. There are so few of us, that statistics are barely affected.

“The gender identity question is voluntary. It will only be asked to respondents aged 16 years and over.”

The trans question comes at the end of the sociocultural questions. It affects fewer people than race or religion.

In Scotland, the trans question is different. The census will take place in 2022, because of Covid.
3. What is your sex?
[] Female [] Male
4. Do you consider yourself to be trans, or have a trans history?
This question is voluntary
Answer only if you are aged 16 or over
Trans is a term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were registered at birth
Tick one box only
[] No
[] Yes, please describe your trans status (for example, non-binary, trans man, trans woman):
[Space to write in answer]

The National Records of Scotland explained their question testing. They tested a nonbinary sex question- male, female, Other- write in. The Scottish Parliament rejected the “Other” option for sex, though the NRS research showed that the questions, including the “other” sex option, were publicly acceptable, and would produce good data. Stakeholders preferred a nonbinary sex question, which produced fewer non-responses. Their aim was “to allow inclusive questions which all respondents can answer with ease”. They found putting the sex and trans status questions together made respondents understand better.

In Northern Ireland, the census will only include a binary sex question, and none on gender identity.

In England, the guidance on how to answer the sex question will read,

If you are considering how to answer, use the sex recorded on one of your legal documents such as a birth certificate, Gender Recognition Certificate, or passport.

That’s fine for me, but I would resent it if I had no GRC. I would ignore it, and tick F anyway. The ONS explains their reasons for the guidance here.

Estimates of the results will be published in March 2022 and the full data set in March 2023.

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