I made a Freedom of Information request of the Office for National Statistics about the ‘sex’ question on the UK Census, with particular relevance to those who are genderqueer or of non-binary gender:
In the run up to the 2011 census, transgender and transsexual
people contacting Census Customer Services were advised to answer
question 2, ‘What is your sex?’ with the option that most closely
matched their self identity, rather than their legal status.
Several transgender individuals who genuinely do not identify as
female or male were also advised that if they were to tick both of
the options provided, they would not be penalised for failing to
answer a required question.
In another Freedom of Information request response, your Office has
explained that when indicated sex or marital status does not
correspond with expected or ‘legally recognised’ structures, this
may be ‘resolved using a probabilistic statistical system’.
Could you please explain:
1a) How is the ‘sex’ question used in census statistics? What is an
answer of ‘male’ or ‘female’ taken to mean?
1b) How the ONS compensates for the inaccuracies/ambiguity
introduced by conflating the separate concepts of sex, social
gender, legal gender and gender identity into one binary question?
2a) Does the census system accept answers for this question other
than responses of only ‘male’ or ‘female’?
2b) Will the figures be made available for the number of people who
answered census question 2 to indicate they are:
i) Both male and female
ii) Neither male nor female
iii) Some other sex/gender, indicated by adding an additional box
or writing an answer in the space around the question
iv) Abstaining from answering the question, indicated by writing
this in the space around the question or by crossing out or
otherwise spoiling the question
2c) Are such figures available for the 1981, 1991 and 2001
censuses? If so, where may I read these?
3a) Will people who indicated that they do not have a single sex
ever have their answer ‘corrected’ or ‘resolved’ to assign them a
single binary sex?
3b) If so, what criteria will be used to assign this sex? How is
4) Approximately how many people had their answer for sex
‘corrected’ in the 1981, 1991 and 2001 census statistics for any
Should I receive a response, this will be written up as an article on PracticalAndrogyny.com