What is your sex? It is a simple question and one that we can all surely answer. When it comes to filling out a census, ascertaining a person’s sex is particularly important. Working out the number of men and women living in an area allows for the appropriate provision of public services. But in its approach to conducting Scotland’s census next year, the Scottish government risks undermining this.
This piece was originally published on 20 March 2021, the weekend of the decennial census in England and Wales.
This weekend’s census in England and Wales has been overshadowed by a debate on questions of sex and gender identity – Q3 and Q27 to be precise – but rather less has been said about Q26, which for the first time will gather data on sexual orientation.
Since 1801 the decennial census has asked us to state our sex. But never before has such a simple question generated such controversy. Yesterday, it ended up before a high court judge. With the 2021 census less than two weeks away, Mr Justice Swift ruled that the guidance accompanying the question should be changed.
The usually dull once-a-decade government counting exercise is at the centre of a row, as members of the gender-identity lobby seek to declare themselves to be whatever they choose. But that would be a missed opportunity for us.
What sex are you? It’s a simple question and one that most of those filling out this year’s census will answer quickly before moving on. But for others, the decision to ask this – rather than allow people to state what gender they think they are – is one laced with controversy.
While transgender people have become much more visible in recent years, our numbers are harder to quantify. In 2011 GIRES reported that:
1% of […] employees and service users may be experiencing some degree of gender variance. At some stage, about 0.2% may undergo transition.
However, those figures were based on samples and estimates, and the GIRES research was completed eight years ago. Society has since moved on, and reliable data is needed, not least to inform the future needs of transgender people for specialist healthcare services.