The Canadian census and transgender people

59,460 people in Canada aged 15 or over identified to the census as transgender. 41,355 identified as non-binary. That is 100,815 people, 0.33% of the population, but the number of trans and NB people will be greater.

In the census, the sex question was, “What was this person’s sex at birth? Sex refers to sex assigned at birth.” The options were male and female. Then there was a gender question: “What is this person’s gender? Refers to current gender which may be different from sex assigned at birth and may be different from what is indicated on legal documents.” The options were Male, Female, or “please specify this person’s gender”. There is a technical report on how the questions were developed. It reveals that in tests the proportion identifying as nonbinary on French-language questionnaires was lower than on English ones. This could be a matter of cultural acceptance, or a matter of understanding the word “genre” used in the French-language questions.

In the test of the census, there were more trans men than trans women under 35, but roughly equal numbers over 35.

As the head of household completed the census for everyone in the household, if a trans youth is not out to their parents they will not figure in the data. And after my aversion therapy I might not have identified as having a different gender, until I actually decided to transition. There will be people who are in denial or too frightened to transition, or who do not want to state on an official questionnaire that they are trans, who will not be included in the figures.

Canada is the first country to provide census data on trans and NB people. Here are the results.

The youngest millennials are now 26. Of these, born between 1981 and 1996, 0.51% identified as trans and NB. Of those born before 1965, fewer than 0.15% identified as trans and NB. It is not clear why the proportion of trans people should be growing. But it is possible that the number of declared trans people is growing because there is less societal transphobia and fewer young people are in denial.

The figure for generation Z, born between 1997 and 2006, was even higher, at 0.79%.

The figures don’t say how many have transitioned. Some will not have yet. It might be possible to consider people’s names: someone assigned male at birth but gender female using the name Steven probably hasn’t transitioned, but if her name is changed to Clare she probably has. But the census data is anonymised to protect privacy, and I don’t know if extracting those details is possible.

I would like to know how many of those trans people have transitioned, because if they have not they will be suffering needlessly because of societal transphobia. I want my brothers and sisters freed.

The city of Victoria, capital of British Columbia, had 0.75% of the population trans or nonbinary. Possibly we are likely to move to cities, where we are more likely to find acceptance. Between the ages of 20 and 24, 0.85% were transgender.

I believe a significant number of trans people will not be identified by the Canadian census. They are not saying they are trans, or they are in denial. If 0.33% of the population gave a different gender from their sex assigned at birth, but 0.85% of those aged 20-24, more than half the trans people in Canada could be in denial, living stunted lives.

One explanation of the difference- fewer than one in 700 over 65 were trans or nonbinary- is that we die younger, from our despair and from violence.

But even among those populations most likely to declare that they are trans, the proportion is under 1%. The straights really should be able to accommodate us. In loos and changing rooms, we are not seeking to terrorise vulnerable women, but to pee or get changed.

0.85% of the UK population is 570,000. That is pretty much the Stonewall estimate. But given that only 0.33% of the Canadian population answered that they were trans or NB, most of those will not have transitioned. The figures from the England and Wales census should be reported later this year. I thought the number transitioned was considerably smaller.

The next questions to ask are, how many people have transitioned? How can trans people be helped to accept ourselves?

In reports, the Associated Press just gave the headline figure of 0.33%, without the reasons to believe the real figure may be more than double that.

9 thoughts on “The Canadian census and transgender people

  1. It had been intended that a question on gender be included in our 2018 census, but during the testing phase, the wording proved to be problematic and there was insufficient time to revise and re-test it, so it was dropped. It will be included in our 2023 census. It will be interesting to compare the results of the two nations.

    I wonder how much the fact that the nominated head of a household being required to complete questions for everyone within a household has affected the result. Here we have individual and household question sheets and all persons 12 and over are expected to complete their own personal question sheet in confidence, the nominated head of household completing the question sheet only for those too young or otherwise unable to complete it themselves. My suspicion is that it we’ll find a higher proportion that will identify as non-binary as that would be easier to conceal from a head of a household than those who are trans.


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