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 assigned 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 on the consultation findings provides further information.

Taking forward the work

As we do not currently collect data on gender identity on any of our social surveys, research and testing work will inform our position on this topic.

We have published a Gender identity research and testing plan which sets out the work we will do to help us determine whether, and how best, to meet user needs for information on this topic. These plans build on our Trans Data Position Paper (May 2009), which outlined the difficulties of collecting data on gender identity within household surveys.

Our research and testing plan includes:

  • reviewing the Trans Data Position Paper

  • seeking to learn about gender identity data collection from other national statistics agencies

  • engaging with relevant stakeholders, including members of the trans community, to clarify data requirements

  • identifying alternative options for meeting the user requirement for data, for example, administrative data; paying particular attention to the public acceptability of these options

  • making a recommendation on which, if any, of the identified options for work on gender identity are appropriate for us to take forward

Latest news and reports

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

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.

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 in 2009. It covers: legislation; the Women and Equalities Committee Transgender Equality inquiry; 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 will be published in Autumn 2017.

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.

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

The gender identity topic is represented at the National Statistics Harmonisation Group.

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.