Mnemonic: sexual_orientation
Applicability: Person
Type: Standard variable


Classifies people according to the responses to the sexual orientation question. This question was voluntary and was only asked of people aged 16 years and over.


Total number of categories: 9

Code Name
1 Straight or Heterosexual
2 Gay or Lesbian
3 Bisexual
4 Pansexual
5 Asexual
6 Queer
7 All other sexual orientations
8 Not answered
-8 Does not apply*

*Students and schoolchildren living away during term-time, and children aged 15 years and under.

View all sexual orientation classifications.

Quality information

There are a number of quality-related aspects of the census data on sexual orientation that you should be aware of when using estimates on this topic.

Read more in our Sexual orientation and gender identity quality information for Census 2021 methodology.

Question asked

Which of the following best describes your sexual orientation?

  • Straight/Heterosexual
  • Gay or Lesbian
  • Bisexual
  • Other sexual orientation, write in

This question is voluntary.

The question was new for Census 2021 and there is no comparability to the 2011 Census.


Read about how we developed and tested the questions for Census 2021.

Why we ask the question

The answer helps local communities by allowing charities, public bodies, and local and central government to understand what services people might need.

This information helps monitor equality between groups of people of different sexual orientation. The answer will help public bodies to identify discrimination or social exclusion based on sexual orientation and work to stop it from happening.

This is the first time that the census in England and Wales has asked this question.

Comparability with the 2011 Census

Not comparable

This variable is new for Census 2021 and there is no comparability with the 2011 Census.

What does not comparable mean?

A variable that is not comparable means that it cannot be compared with a variable from the 2011 Census.

England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland comparisons

Highly comparable

What does highly comparable mean?

A variable that is highly comparable means that it can be directly compared with the variable from Scotland and Northern Ireland. The questions and options that people could choose from may be slightly different, for example the order of the options may be swapped around, but the data collected is the same.

Find out more about variables produced for Census 2021 in Northern Ireland and Census 2022 in Scotland.

Census 2021 data that uses this variable

We use variables from Census 2021 data to show findings in different ways.

You can:

Other datasets that use this variable