There were 262,000 people living in England and Wales in March 2021 who identified with a gender different from their sex registered at birth, according to the latest Census 2021 figures.
For the first time, a census of England and Wales asked people about their sexual orientation and gender identity. "These new figures will be vital in helping shape services in years to come," said the authors of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report.
The census took place in England and Wales on 21 March 2021 with the new question on gender identity added to provide the first official data on the size of the transgender population in England and Wales. ONS said that the data will help to provide better quality information for monitoring purposes, support anti-discrimination duties under the Equality Act 2010, and aid allocation for resources and policy development.
The question, "Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?", was voluntary and only asked of people aged 16 years and over. People had the option of selecting either "Yes" or "No" and writing in their gender identity.
The ONS report highlighted that 45.7 million (94.0%) people responded to the question, with 45.4 million (93.5%) saying "Yes", and 262,000 (0.5%) saying "No".
Within the group that answered "No":
- 118,000 (0.24%) answered "No" but 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
- 18,000 (0.04%) wrote in a different gender identity
The remaining 2.9 million (6.0%) did not answer the question on gender identity, explained the ONS.
Commenting on the figures, ONS director Jen Woolford emphasised that having the census estimates about the population of England and Wales in relation to gender identity was "crucial".
She said the question had been introduced as a "reflection of our society becoming more diverse, but also because there are now clear user needs for more information on that kind of diversity and the richness of our population".
The percentage of the population aged 16 years and over who reported that their gender identity was different from their sex at birth was slightly higher in England than in Wales - 0.55% versus 0.40%.
Within England, London was the region with the highest percentage (0.91%) who reported that their gender identity was different from their sex at birth, with the South West being the region with the lowest percentage (0.42%). In Wales, the local authorities with the highest percentages were Cardiff (0.71%) and Ceredigion (0.70%).
Compared with England and Wales as a whole, London had higher percentages of people who identified as a trans man (0.16%), who identified as a trans woman (0.16%), and who answered “No” but did not provide a write-in response (0.46%).
Of the 10 local authorities with the largest proportion of the population aged 16 years and over whose gender identity was different from their sex at birth, eight were in London - being highest in Newham (1.51%) and Brent (1.31%). The two non-London local authorities in the top 10 were Oxford (1.25%), which was third, and Norwich (1.07%), which was ninth, explained the authors of the report.
In terms of specific gender identities, Brent and Newham also had the highest percentage who identified as a trans man (0.28% and 0.25%, respectively), while Barking and Dagenham had the highest percentage who identified as a trans woman (0.25%).
In Wales, Cardiff had the highest percentage who identified as a trans man (0.12%) and also had the highest percentage who identified as a trans woman (0.13%).
The five local authorities with the highest proportion of the population aged 16 years and over who identified as non-binary were all outside London: Brighton and Hove (0.35%), Norwich (0.33%), Cambridge (0.26%), and Ceredigion had the highest percentage (0.23%) - who identified as non-binary of any local authority in Wales.
Also asked for the first time to those aged 16 years and over was another voluntary question on sexual orientation. This question was answered by 44.9 million people (92.5%), with around 43.4 million people (89.4%) identifying as straight or heterosexual. Around 1.5 million people (3.2%) identified with an LGB+ orientation:
- 748,000 (1.5%) described themselves as gay or lesbian
- 624,000 (1.3%) described themselves as bisexual
- 165,000 (0.3%) selected "Other sexual orientation"
Of those who selected "Other sexual orientation", the most common write-in responses included: pansexual (112,000, 0.23%), asexual (28,000, 0.06%), and queer (15,000, 0.03%).
"Another 10,000 (0.02%) wrote in a different sexual orientation, while the remaining 3.6 million people (7.5%) did not answer the question", the ONS pointed out.
The local authority with the largest LGB+ population among those aged 16 years and over was Brighton and Hove (10.7%).
Seven of the other local authorities in the top 10 were in London, with the largest LGB+ populations residing in The City of London (10.3%), Lambeth (8.3%), and Southwark (8.1%).
In Wales, the local authorities with the largest LGB+ populations were in Cardiff (5.3%), Ceredigion (4.9%), and Swansea (3.4%).
Ms Woolford pointed out that the new data will "ensure decision-makers have the best information so they can better understand the extent and nature of disadvantage which people may be experiencing in terms of educational outcomes, health, employment, and housing".
Scotland's census was delayed due to the pandemic, but its responses are expected to be released later this year. Northern Ireland's census didn't include a question about gender identity, but the responses to its question on sexual orientation are expected to be published this year.
The LGBT Foundation cautiously welcomed the "ground-breaking" first snapshot of LGBTQ+ identities in the Census, and highlighted that the Census data "constitutes a vital step" in ensuring LGBTQ+ communities can "share their experiences and identities at a national level".
However, the Foundation pointed out that the "data remains incomplete", as "we know that figures provided in the Census represent only a small proportion of all LGBTQ+ people". However, it expressed hope that the "true picture" of LGBTQ+ people would become clearer in years to come as an “increasing number of our communities feel confident to self-disclose” in future Censuses.
"This is just the first snapshot," said Ms Woolford. "In future analysis we will be exploring sexual orientation and gender identity by key demographic variables, such as age and sex, as well as employment, health, education and ethnicity, among others."