PracticalAndrogyny.com writes up a summary and analysis of how the UK census records ‘sex’ and reflects non-binary genders.
In 2001 approximately 14,000 people ticked both male and female and 185,000 people ticked neither box, this accounts for 0.4% of the population. We will eventually be given similar counts of how many people failed to indicate a single binary ‘sex’ or who answered both male and female in the 2011 census. It will be extremely interesting to see if the rate of non-response or the proportion of multi-ticking has risen since 2001 in light of the (albeit limited) campaigns asking non-binary and genderqueer people to tick both answers.
Although “What is your sex?” had the lowest imputation rate for any question, the figures nonetheless indicate that there were almost two hundred thousand answers that were potentially attempting to accurately record a non-binary gender or intersex status, of which the 14,000 multi-ticked answers are highly likely to be intentional. Some of the ‘non-response’ answers counted may have actually indicated a non-binary gender or intersex status by writing this information into the space around the question.
However the ONS has no plans to report figures for the number of people who wrote in, spoiled, amended or clarified their answers on the paper forms. The individual answers will however be stored and made available in 100 years. Knowing these individual figures could be extremely interesting and would help to show how many people felt strongly enough about their non-binary gender to protest being asked for a binary sex on the census. However even with this information, the census data will never be a good indication of the numbers of non-binary people in the United Kingdom due to the intentionally limiting and misleading nature of the question.
We have no way of knowing, until the years 2101 and 2111, how many answers recorded as ‘non-response’ or even as a binary ‘sex’ in fact indicated an unambiguous non-binary answer by writing in this information. We’ll never know how many more people with non-binary genders opted to answer with their assigned or legal sex due to incorrectly believing that was what the census was asking for, due to the legally mandated nature of the question, due to using the online form which did not allow multiple, skipped or written in answers, due to someone else in their household incorrectly answering for them, or out of fear of the ramifications of indicating trans* status on a form that would be seen by their entire household.
Write to the Office for National Statistics requesting that the number of people who wrote in some kind of response extra to the binary options in the question of sex be counted and reported. Ideally this information would be further sub-divided into those who did this while ticking no items, ticking male alone, ticking female alone or ticking both. We would also need to know the number of people who completed the question online and were therefore unable to amend the question or give any kind of non-binary answer. When requesting this information, state that we do not believe that this would be a statistically valid reflection of the numbers of non-binary trans* people in the country, but we do feel that it would give a better reflection of how many felt strongly enough about their gender to clarify their answer or protest the question.
In addition to campaigning about the census now past, if you want the government to legally recognise the existence of non-binary genders and record accurate statistics about our numbers then write to your MP explaining how strongly you feel about this issue and how having your gender ignored and erased impacts your life. Also ask your MP to write to the Minister for Equalities Lynne Featherstone on your behalf to explain how important it is to you that National Statistics surveys and censuses record and reflect non-binary genders and other types of trans* experiences.