Gender identity

Gender identity is a personal internal perception of oneself and, as such, the gender category with which a person identifies may not match the sex they were registered at birth. In contrast, sex is biologically determined.

Background to our work on gender identity

Our 2021 Census topic consultation identified a need amongst a number of data users for information about gender identity for policy development and service planning, especially in relation to the provision of health services. These requirements are strengthened by the need for information on those with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment as set out in the Equality Act 2010. The Gender identity topic report (PDF, 728KB) on the consultation findings provides further information.

Beyond our census work, we are currently engaging with the Government Statistical Service (GSS) Harmonisation team to develop a harmonised standard for collecting gender identity data for use across government departments.

Our current work includes:

Update to our work on the gender identity topic

Recommendation on gender identity for the 2021 Census (December 2018)

The government published a white paper laying out the UK Statistics Authority’s proposals for the conduct and content of the 2021 Census. The proposals include a recommendation for the inclusion of a voluntary gender identity question, to be asked of those aged 16 years and over.

To coincide with this release, we published an update on our research and testing of questions for questions and topics for the 2021 Census. This report outlined the work we had done against each of the commitments in our Gender Identity Research and Testing Plan (PDF, 798KB).

Harmonisation Champion network

The gender identity topic is represented at the Government Statistical Service Harmonisation Champion Network (this replaces the National Statistics Harmonisation Group (NSHG)).

For any queries regarding this work, please contact us by email at pop.info@ons.gov.uk or by phone on +44(0) 1329 444661.

Recent publications

September 2019, Guidance for questions on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation for the 2019 Census Rehearsal for the 2021 Census

We published a paper presenting the guidance for questions on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation for the 2019 Census Rehearsal for the 2021 Census, which includes a summary of the research that has informed the drafting of this guidance.

September 2019, Measuring sex in the UK censuses: harmonisation update

The Government Statistical Service (GSS) published the article Measuring sex in the UK censuses: Harmonisation update.

June 2019, In-depth review of measuring gender identity

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Statistics Canada (STC), as part of the UNECE Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians, collaborated to undertake an In-depth review of measuring gender identity (paper published in June 2019). The review examines different approaches to statistical measurement of gender identity being undertaken so far, including the context and rationale; identifies issues and challenges; and provides some recommendations for the way forward.

February 2019, What is the difference between sex and gender?

This article sets out how “sex” and “gender” are used in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Related publications

December 2017, 2021 Census topic research report

On 13 December 2017, we published an update of our gender identity research as part of the 2021 Census topic research report.

September 2017, Qualitative research on gender identity: phase 1 summary report

During March and April 2017, our Data Collection Methodology branch undertook focus groups and one-to-one in-depth interviews with transgender and cisgender participants. They explored issues around the collection of gender identity, including: responses to sex and gender questions and potential barriers to answering; terminology; privacy; burden and acceptability. In September 2017, we published a Qualitative research on gender identity: phase 1 summary report, which covers the purpose of the research, the methodology used, as well as findings, conclusions and recommendations. We will be undertaking phase 2 of the qualitative research in due course.

June 2017, Gender identity update event

As part of our ongoing stakeholder engagement, a Gender identity update event was held in June 2017. This provided our stakeholders with an update to our work so far. The event included an overview of work to date, findings from our research and testing, and next steps.

January 2017, Gender identity update paper

In January 2017, we published a Gender identity update, which outlines developments around the topic of gender identity since the publication of our Trans Data Position Paper (PDF, 186KB) in 2009. It covers legislation; Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into equality for transgender (trans) people; data collection and question development worldwide; and details of our research, testing and findings so far. It also sets out the next steps and future work we will be undertaking. A further update was published in autumn 2017 (see December 2017, 2021 Census topic research report).

August 2016, Gender identity workshop

As the first stage of our stakeholder engagement, a Gender identity workshop was held in August 2016. This workshop enabled us to gain further understanding and clarity around concepts, terminology and information needs on gender identity.

May 2016, Gender identity working group

In May 2016, we established a working group to work with stakeholders and identify user needs for gender identity estimates.