Next UK census could make ‘intrusive’ sex question voluntary

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The 2021 census in the UK could make the “sex” question voluntary in order to be more inclusive of trans people.

A “tentative” recommendation has been made by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A report on gender identity by the ONS suggested that the change could be made in order to be more inclusive to trans and non-binary people.


The Sunday Times reported that this would make the census data inaccurate when it comes to a record of the number of men and women in the UK compared to other countries.

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But research by the ONS suggested that the question was inappropriate, especially given that it asks about “sex rather than gender”.

The 2011 census included the “sex” question which was mandatory.

The report says the question of whether a person is male or female “was considered to be irrelevant, unacceptable and intrusive, particularly to trans participants, due to asking about sex rather than gender”.

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As well as making the question voluntary, the report explored other options.

This included making a “hybrid” question including an “other” category.

But the report suggested that providing an “other” category was “thought to homogenise trans people and differentiate them from the rest of society,”

Changes were suggested by the authors “to better meet the needs of trans respondents”.

Meanwhile, in the US, Trump officials revoked Obama-era requests for data on LGBT people to be collected in the census, documents have revealed.

Under President Obama, a number of government departments had formally requested that the US Census Bureau begin collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity through the ongoing American Community Survey (ACS).

Documents published by NPR show that Obama’s former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro had argued that “valid, reliable, and nationally representative data on sexual orientation and gender identity are essential” to the government catering for LGBT people.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice under LGBT ally Loretta Lynch had also formally requested “that the Census Bureau consider a new topic in the ACS relating to LGBT populations”.

However, under Donald Trump, that decision has been swiftly reversed