1. Background

In August 2016, Office for National Statistics (ONS) held a Gender identity workshop, which was designed to provide an opportunity to explore concepts, terminology and data needs together with members of the trans community and users of gender identity data. It also provided the chance for participants to learn more about our research and testing plans for the gender identity topic. An outcome of this workshop was that we identified opportunities for collaboration, to build relations and establish longer-term engagement with stakeholders, data users and organisations for ongoing work with gender identity.

For our Gender identity update event in June 2017, we invited those: who attended our 2016 workshop, have expressed an interest in our work on gender identity, or have been identified as having expertise in this topic.

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2. Purpose of the Gender identity update event

The event was designed to provide our stakeholders with an update on our gender identity work so far, including for the 2021 Census. This covered an overview of work to date, findings from our research and testing, and next steps. Attendees were invited to provide feedback on our work and were able to speak to our staff about it. The event was attended by representatives from:

  • special interest groups and members representing the trans community

  • public bodies and organisations with equalities responsibilities

  • local government

  • academics and researchers

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3. Our presentation

Our presentation included:

  • a background on the topic of gender identity, earlier work (the Trans Data Position paper, Gender Identity Update Paper) and the recommended questions developed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

  • an overview of the request for data, how we decide what information to collect, and challenges and considerations

  • an overview of alternative sources of data, such as sex and gender in administrative data (data collected for administrative or non-research purposes)

  • approaches to data collection of gender identity information both internationally and within the UK

  • an overview of the methodology and findings from our research and testing (in-depth interviews and focus groups and public acceptability testing), as well as planned research on data quality and non-response

  • next steps, including continuing engagement with stakeholders and a published update around autumn 2017

We concluded that:

  • whilst the main data need is a reliable estimate of the population identifying as trans (the trans umbrella captures the wider group of those who self-identify as an identity different to that assigned to them at birth), not all data needs can be met using one measure

  • various challenges and considerations to collecting gender identity information exist, including: sex/ gender conflation, which may impact on data quality, privacy and legislation considerations

  • different solutions have been taken to similar challenges internationally

  • data needs and legislation impact on what is collected internationally

  • results from public acceptability testing show there are no major problems with acceptability, but this needs to be tested in practice

  • the current sex question can be a barrier and is seen as being out-of-date as respondents can only report a binary identity of male or female

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4. Activity

Attendees took part in an activity that enabled them to provide feedback on each of the subtopics covered in the form of: what went well, what could be improved, bright ideas and questions.

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5. Attendee feedback and conclusions

We received positive feedback from attendees about our work, research and testing on gender identity. The main outcomes reported by attendees as a result of attending this event were:

  • feeling more informed about ONS work on gender identity

  • feeling like they have a good understanding of the challenges around our work

Attendees had the chance to share any other information on gender identity, suggest gaps in our programme of work or research and provide more general feedback about the event and our work on the topic.

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6. Next steps

We will continue to gather evidence to feed into a recommendation into whether and how best to take forward work on gender identity across ONS (both for the 2021 Census and other surveys).

We will publish an update in autumn 2017.

We will continue our engagement with stakeholders.

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