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 LGBT community is expanding. The Office of National Statistics found that the proportion of the UK population — aged 16 years and over — publicly identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual increased from 1.5% to 2.0% between 2012 and 2017.
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.