The Office for National Statistics has released data from the 2021 census which for the first time ever includes statistics about the numbers of trans and non-binary living in England and Wales. Here Tom Pashby takes a look at the transgender and non-binary census data;

Awareness about transgender and non-binary people has skyrocketed over the past several years both internationally and in the UK. In the lead up to the questions from Census 2021 being sent to the UK population, there was a debate about how to ask people about their gender identity. Including legal challenges.

The form of the question was hotly contested, and resulted in an optional question being added. The new question asked people if they have a gender identity which is different to the one they were assigned at birth, and they were given identity options to choose from.

The optional question for collecting transgender and non-binary census data was “Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?”. To which 45.7 million (94%) of the population who were 16 or over at the time of the Census answered. With 45.4 million (93.5%) having answered “Yes” and 262,000 (0.5%) having answered “No”.

Within the 262,000 who answered no, 118,000 (0.24%) did not provide a write-in response, 48,000 (0.10%) identified as a trans man, 48,000 (0.10%) identified as a trans woman, 30,000 (0.06%) identified as non-binary, and 18,000 (0.04%) wrote in a different gender identity.

It is worth noting that no survey is perfect, including this transgender and non-binary census data. While this is some of the most accurate and statistically significant data about trans and non-binary people in England and Wales to date, the state of transphobia and queerphobia in the UK means that many will have felt unsafe to report their true gender identity. 

In addition to the whole of England and Wales figures, the ONS provided an interactive map where you can see the proportions of people living within local authority areas who responded to the question. Including transgender and non-binary census data showing proportions of trans people in a given area.

London has the highest proportions of people who reported their identities as being trans men, trans women or non-binary.

Brent and Newham, both of which are local authority areas in London, had the highest percentage who identified as a trans man (0.28% and 0.25%, respectively), while Barking and Dagenham (also in London) had the highest percentage who identified as a trans woman (0.25%).

Brighton and Hove had the highest percentage of non-binary people (0.35%), followed by Norwich (0.33%) and Cambridge (0.26%). In fifth place was Ceredigion (0.23%), which had the highest percentage who identified as non-binary of any local authority in Wales.

This transgender and non-binary census data is very exciting for many people, particularly the trans and non-binary community. We got a glimpse into the number of us living in the UK around the time of the GRA consultation and the Gender Census have an indication into the international picture, but this is the first time that everyone in the UK has properly had the chance to identify themselves in such a large data set.

We are a tiny minority of the population but still enough to warrant at least one seat in parliament for a non-binary person if both Houses of Parliament were elected, along with half a dozen trans people. At the moment there are extremely few trans or non-binary at the top of politics or the media.

Despite the fact that the “trans debate” has raged on for years, actual trans and non-binary people have largely or entirely been conspicuously absent from those conversations. For example, there are no non-binary Members of Parliament and just one MP who came out as having gender dysphoria.

The localised data should give people pause for thought about why trans and non-binary choose to live in particular areas and not others.

In Brighton and Hove where I live, there are no non-binary people elected as councillors. Proportionally, that makes sense. But with Brighton having the highest proportion of non-binary people in England and Wales, it is concerning that there is no trans or non-binary democratic representation in our local authority.

Gender identity was just one part of the Census 2021 data and there are many other demographic areas which were covered, including type of housing people are living in, religion and types of work.

The ONS will be publishing more detailed analysis of its gender identity and sexual orientation data over the coming months.

This article was funded by LGBT+ Futures: Equity Fund is a two-year £786,000 partnership between Consortium and The National Lottery Community Fund, designed to help community-led and grassroot organisations supporting some of the most under-represented and marginalised LGBT+ communities. Read more here.