The government is considering asking if you’re gay or trans in 2021
The 2021 census in England and Wales is considering asking about gender identity and sexual orientation for the first time.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) conducts a census of England and Wales once every ten years to measure a number of factors in order to monitor social changes and population growth.
The census asks questions about several social characteristics, including marital status, race and religion, but has not previously asked any questions in relation to LGBT identity.
Current data on how many LGBT people there are in England and Wales may be less accurate than a national census, as much of the data comes from Public Health England from when LGBT people interact with health providers.
An online national census will be filled out by every home in the country in 2021, and may be the most accurate source.
The potential inclusion may come with some issues, however.
There are concerns concerns that the self-completing forms do not guarantee privacy among family members, as typically one person per household fills out the form, which may lead to under- representation of LGBT people.
There also may be an issue with the form itself if there are not adequate categories or self-reporting options for sexual orientation and gender identity.
The potential inclusion of questions about gender and sexuality comes from several recommendations, including internal recommendations and calls from the government.
In a report published in May 2016, the ONS warned that there is not enough being done to monitor people’s sexual and gender identities and conceded that it had previously found the issues “not suitable.”
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This was said on the grounds of “privacy, acceptability, accuracy, conceptual definitions and the effect that such a question could have on the overall response to the census”.
The potential change would follow a report in October where the ONS suggested that the category of ‘sex’ could be made voluntary in order to be more inclusive to trans and non-binary people.
The Government Equalities Office recommended the inclusion of questions about gender identity and sexual orientation last year.
They said: “The absence of basic data on the transgender population results in the invisibility of transgender inequalities and disadvantage for decisionmakers and funders.
“In the absence of census data by gender identity (regarded as the gold standard by us and many of our stakeholders) there is considerable debate about the size and composition of the transgender population in Britain.”
The actual format of the census or the potential questions asked are yet to be seen, but the increased data will be a positive step for many.