The Office for National Statistics has released its Sexual Orientation and Gender identity: Census 2021 in England and Wales. For the first time ever, we are now able to see how many people in England and Wales identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
On January 6th 2023, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Census 2021 in England and Wales. This Census collected data about sexuality and gender identity. To navigate the Census more easily, we have created a summary of the key findings.
Census Data on Gender Identity
The Census data found that 0.5% of participants identified as a gender that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. The question asked: ‘Is the gender identity you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?’. This question was the first of its kind. The Census 2021 includes the first official data on the size of the trans population in England and Wales.
The ONS Census revealed that:
- 0.10% identify as a trans woman
- 0.10% identify as a trans man
- 0.10% identify as non-binary
- 0.04% identify as a gender other than male, female, or non-binary
- 0.24% identified that their gender differs from their sex registered at birth but provided no specific gender identity
The question was voluntary, and 45.7 million people over the age of 16 (94%) responded. Of those, 93.5% indicated that their gender matches their sex registered at birth, while 0.5% answered ‘no’. 2.9 million (6%) of the population above 16 years of age did not answer the question on gender identity.
The Census data confirms that there are at least 262,000 trans and gender diverse people above the age of 16 living in England and Wales.
Out of all the cities, London was the most gender diverse area (0.91%), followed by other metropolitan areas.
If you would like to read the full breakdown of the percentages by location, visit the Office for National Statistics website. You will also find a more detailed map highlighting all the areas populated by trans and gender diverse people.
Census Data on Sexual Orientation
The Census data found that 3.2% of the participants identify with an LGB+ sexual orientation.
The survey asked participants to indicate their sexual orientation from four different options: Straight or heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, and other sexual orientation. If they selected other sexual orientation, they were requested to specify it.
Similarly to gender identity, the question on sexual orientation was new for the Census 2021. The ONS had previously collected data on sexuality. However, including this question enabled for a much more detailed understanding of the various queer identities in England and Wales.
The ONS Census found that:
- 1.54% identify as gay or lesbian
- 1.28% identify as bisexual
- 0.23% identify as pansexual
- 0.06% identify as asexual
- 0.03% identify as queer
- 0.02% identify as any other sexual orientation
A total of 44.9 million people aged 16 or above (92.5%) responded to the question, with 89.4% identifying as heterosexual or straight. 7.5% of those questioned chose not to answer the question on sexual orientation, a higher proportion than those who opted out of responding to the question on gender identity.
The Census data confirms that there are around 1.5 million LGB+ people above the age of 16 living in England and Wales. London continues to be the most diverse area, with 4.3% of people identifying as LGB+. If you would like to read the full breakdown of the percentages by location, visit the Office for National Statistics website. You will also find a more detailed map highlighting all the areas populated by LGB+ people.
Bisexual and Pansexual Erasure
Interestingly, this data shows that there are just as many gay and lesbian people (1.54%) as there are bisexuals and pansexuals (1.51%) combined. Bi and pan people are often underrepresented and their identities erased. Thus, it is striking to see that they are just as common as gay and lesbian people. This Census data has the potential to spark an important conversation around the erasure of bi and pan identities within as well as outside of the LGBTQ+ community.
It is important to remember that this data does not include a breakdown of the participants’ age. Furthermore, only people aged 16 or over were asked to partake. The Census revealed some much needed information. However, it is not 100% accurate regarding the entire population of England and Wales. Young people are missing from the ONS’ data collection. Unfortunately, this is reflective of real-life discussions of trans issues. For example, trans youths are excluded from many of the conversations around Gender Affirming Healthcare.
The LGBTQ+ Pride 2021 Global Survey has shown that nearly a fifth (18%) of young adults identify as LGBTQ+. With this information, it is very likely that Census data numbers around LGBTQ+ identities would experience shift if under 16 year olds had been included. The Office for National Statistics will release a breakdown of the participants by age on January 25th.
We also need to be aware of the way surveys are conducted on a household basis. Some LGBTQ+ youths need to protect themselves in their domestic environment. This will naturally suppress their representation in the data.
Queer and trans youth who live in non-affirming and unsupportive households would have been more likely than a cis peer to answer inaccurately. Out of fear of suffering abuse or homelessness, they could have provided a ‘yes’ to the question ‘Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?’. Further, parents who do not recognise and support their trans children may answer on their behalf. Therefore, while the Census data surveyed millions of people, it cannot perfectly take into account the personal experiences leading up to each answer, or the effects of the domestic environment on marginalised identities, especially queer and trans youths.
More people have been identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community in the past decade. The number of trans and gender diverse people has also increased. Progress is reflected in the fact that more people are comfortable openly declaring who they are, and indeed can explore and better understand who they are. The Census 2021 data supports anti-discrimination duties under the Equality Act 2010, and it aids in allocating resources and developing trans-inclusive policies.
The Census 2021 data demonstrates that more research and surveys are needed to accurately identify the number of LGBTQ+ people around the world. While having the Census data to hand is a great leap forward, we also need to be aware of the more complex and dangerous contexts in which trans people and the wider LGBTQ+ community are sometimes forced to live.