People in England and Wales to be allowed to record their gender identity and sexuality in the 2021 census

For the first time in history, people in the England and Wales can record their gender identity and sexuality in the official 2021 census, taking place on the 21st of March.

Vitto Ginevri

The voluntary question in the census is, “is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?” To this, anyone above 16 years of age can tick yes or no.

The census includes a feature that allows people to keep their information confidential, in case they are not out yet, or who are uncomfortable completing the household form. This is done by requesting a separate online or paper form, and it overrides the information on the household form.

This inclusion has been declared a “good first step” by some in the transgender community. Owen Hurcum, the major-elect of Bangor, says, “I do see this as a token gesture from the government [but], it’s at least a single step in the right direction and I for one look forward to putting my real gender on the census.” They said they would fill in the form to say non-binary agender.

The next steps, as mentioned by them, are to allow more genders to be put in passports and improve the access to gender identity clinics. Moreover, they also want younger children to be able to answer the question, claiming that “people begin to know their gender from way below the age of 16” and that the fact that this option will not be available to them is “inherently discriminatory”. This final idea is also backed by Shash Appan, a trans activist from Cardiff.

Cardiff highlights the importance of this step. “At the moment non-binary people don’t have legal recognition in law, which it makes it difficult for them to navigate society, because when your gender identity doesn’t match your ID or when you’re mis-gendered it can make interactions with our mostly cis, heteronormative society difficult to say the least.”

“Having an idea of how many trans people are in the UK will give an idea for people who do control funding and hopefully they’ll allocate more.”

Information from the census, in fact, is used to plan and run public services, such as transport, education and healthcare. “Without robust data on the size of the LGBT+ population at a national and local level, decision-makers are operating in a vacuum, unaware of the extent and nature of disadvantage which LGBT+ people may be experiencing in terms of health, educational outcomes, employment and housing,” says Iain Bell, the Office for National Statistics deputy national statistician.