The next census – in 2021 – could ask people about sexual orientation and transsexualism.
Plans for the national questionnaire are being drawn up by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but Parliament is likely to have to consider any change to ask about LGBT issues.
Previously it has been shown that 1.6 per cent of people in the UK are lesbian, gay or bisexual, while under 4,000 people have obtained a gender recognition certificate.
In a public consultation, homosexual lobby group Stonewall supported asking about transsexualism in the next census.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission proposed questions on the issue, which included a blank space to describe “how you think of yourself”.
It also recommended giving people the option to say they had been through gender reassignment but “then changed back”.
The ONS currently believes the census is not the best place to ask about “gender identity”, but pledged to “take forward work” on the issue.
It also noted that a change to laws on the census in order to introduce a question on transsexualism would “have to be made through primary legislation”.
Ahead of the 2011 Census, the ONS opposed asking people about sexuality, citing numerous concerns including privacy and accuracy.
Now it is to test a question on the topic of sexual identity to 100,000 households in 2017 before making a recommendation to Parliament for the 2021 Census.
The previous census did not have a question on the issue, but the ONS says there is “a clear need among data users for improved information on sexual identity”.
It adds that it is “also probable that the addition of a question on sexual identity to the census would require an amendment to primary legislation”.
On the issue of religion, the ONS says it intends to use the same 2011 question – “what is your religion” – in the 2021 Census.
The official statistics body also says it will review the question design for marriage, following the introduction of same-sex marriage.
2021 Census Director Ian Cope said: “As data from the census underpins so many important policies and decisions that affect us all, we need to make sure that people find it straightforward and acceptable to complete.”
“We will continue to discuss this balance with everyone who will be relying on the trusted data that the 2021 Census will provide, and to test different question options.”