What the census reveals about the prevalence of LGBT+ identities

12 January 2023

Tim Dieppe, Christian Concern’s Head of Public Policy comments on new statistics from the census on how people define their gender and sexuality.

The initial statistics from the census on gender identity and sexual orientation came out last week. These are headline figures which apply only to England and Wales. There will be more to come when we should be able to analyse the ages of people with different identities and other information. For now, the headlines do provide some interesting information that is worth assessing.

LGBT+ is still a small minority

First off, the most obvious takeaway is that LGBT+ identities are still a very small minority. Overall, those identifying as having an LGB+ orientation made up 3.2% of the population, while 7.5% did not answer the question. Only 0.5% of the population said that they did not identify with the same sex as the sex they were registered at birth. Here, 6% did not answer the question, and it was the first time that a question on gender identity was included in the census. It is likely that those refusing to answer the questions were boycotting the questions because they disapproved of them.

Those willing to identify themselves as having an LGBT+ identity therefore make up 3.7% of the population. This is lower than the latest church membership figures (c.10%) or church attendance figures at around 4.7%. Of course, the key difference here is that LGBT+ is growing rapidly, whilst church membership and attendance is in decline. Similarly, the LGBT+ lobby is having a disproportionate influence on public policy for its size, whereas the influence of Christianity is declining.

Only 0.1% legally transgender

The headlines are all about 262,000 people who identify with a different gender from their sex registered at birth. This is 0.5% of the population, but is still a lot of people. It’s worth noting that LGBT lobbying organisation Stonewall still says on its website that “the best estimate at the moment is that around 1% of the population might identify as trans.” That’s double the actual number from the census. Of course, it is in their interests to overstate the numbers.

It is important to note that only around 6,000 people in the whole of the UK actually have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). That’s around 0.1% of the population who are legally transgender. It is also only c.2% of those who said in the census in England and Wales that they are transgender. In other words, there are a lot of people who say they are transgender, but who are not legally transgender. In fact, that’s 98% of those who say they are transgender, but do not have a GRC.

Of course, changing your gender is a legal fiction. In fact, it is legally lying and falsifying history since people with a GRC are allowed to change the gender on their birth certificate. Fortunately, the UK government has refused to go down the route of gender self-identification, instead requiring some medical sign off and living in your acquired gender for two years to obtain a GRC. Scotland, however, is progressing down the self-id path, much to the annoyance of Westminster.

The legal sex of those identifying as transgender

It is worth remembering that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) was forced to change its guidance on how to answer the question about sex in the census. The organisation Fair Play for Women took the ONS to court on the issue. The question itself asked “What is your sex?” with male/female response options. So far so clear. The problem was that the ONS guidance on how to respond to this question allowed people to answer the question according to the sex recorded on some documents that do not require a GRC to change the sex marker. Fair Play for Women were rightly concerned that this was gender self-id through the back door and, after not getting a response from the ONS, applied for an emergency judicial review. In spite of the census already having gone live at this point, a judge ordered that the guidance should be changed to make clear that people had to answer the question according to their legal sex. The ONS then finally complied and made the change on the census website.

At this point we do not yet know the legal sex of those identifying as transgender. This information will come in a future release from the ONS.

What about non-binary?

There is no legal status of non-binary gender identification in the UK. Nevertheless, the ONS for the first time asked a question about gender identity which enabled participants to opt out of being either male or female. The question allowed a free text response to indicate your gender identity. 30,000 people, or 0.06% of the population identified as non-binary and a further 18,000 or 0.04% wrote in a different gender identity. These responses are effectively a refusal to identify as either male or female, encouraged by the ONS providing an alternative option. The numbers are small but growing. Fortunately, the government won a legal challenge a few years ago from a person who wanted her passport to indicate ‘X’ instead of ‘M’ for male or ‘F’ for female. Part of the case against this change was the security implications of not having strict gender identities on passports. There are wider implications across society for the growing acceptance of non-binary identities in public services, schools, prisons, and health services. Once again, we do not yet know the legal sex or ages of those identifying as non-binary.

Small but growing population

The portion of the population that identifies as LGBT+ is still small but is growing. We will learn more when data is released about the ages and legal genders of these people. There are signs in society of an increasing backlash against transgenderism in particular, with the fall from grace of both Stonewall and Mermaids in the last year, and majority of the population opposed to gender self-ID. We can hope that this may mark a peak in the prevalence of gender identities, but the concern would be that they are more prevalent amongst younger people and there is more acceptance of these identities amongst the young too.

Meanwhile, we can be encouraged that it is still quite a small, if vocal and influential minority group. In fact, rather smaller than those that attend church! If only Christians were as vocal and proud of their views and identity in Christ! Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned there?

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