Sexual identity guidance

The sexual identity question is now a national harmonised standard. It is important that the question is asked in a consistent way on all social surveys, for comparability across different sources. In view of this, a user guide has been developed to assist researchers. The evidence from the various stages of the project have been consolidated into 1 document with the aim of providing guidance to both users of sexual identity statistics and those organisations collecting data on sexual identity. “Measuring sexual identity: a guide for researchers (116.5 Kb Pdf)” was published in May 2009.

For more on harmonised standards, visit the “Harmonisation” web page via the “Related links” section.

Sexual identity project documentation

The ONS's Sexual Identity Project was established in 2006 to meet user requirements for information on sexual identity. The project had 3 main objectives: question development, question testing and implementation and guidance. This was a high-priority project for ONS, involving consultation within and outside government, including academics, non-governmental organisations and lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) groups.

The project reported in 2009.

Question development

The Sexual Identity Project aimed to develop questioning to be used on social surveys and for equality- monitoring purposes.

A prototype question was developed using:

  • exploratory work (including use of focus groups) to gain an understanding of the concept of sexual identity and issues relating to acceptability and survey administration

  • a review of other surveys that have included a question on sexual identity, both in the UK and internationally

Project reports are available in PDF in the “Downloads” section.

Question-testing and implementation

ONS's Sexual Identity Project aimed to develop questioning that could be used on social surveys and for equality- monitoring purposes. It was important that questioning was developed to meet user requirements, was acceptable to respondents and could be administered on a social survey.

Early testing of potential questions on sexual identity was conducted by trials on the National Statistics Omnibus survey.

The prototype question was tested by:

  • cognitive/in-depth interviews

  • a general lifestyle survey split-sample pilot

The final question was added to the integrated household survey (IHS) in January 2009. The IHS combines most ONS household surveys into one. Data collected in the first year will be used to produce the first baseline estimates of the size and characteristics of the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) populations.

Project reports are available in PDF in the “Downloads” section.

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