ONS U-turn: Census to record ‘legal sex’ not self-ID

Controversial plans to allow people to ‘self-identify’ as someone of the opposite sex on this year’s census for England and Wales have been abandoned.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) now says that respondents will be required to enter their “legal sex” for the household questionnaire, rather than being able to choose their ‘preferred option’.

However, for the first time in the history of the national survey, people over the age of 16 will be given the option to indicate their ‘gender identity’ in an additional question.

‘Simple question’

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, the Government’s principal advisor on official statistics, said: “we are asking a very simple question which is ‘what is your sex, your legal sex’. And that’s the right way to do this on a census”.

He added: “The question on sex is precisely the same question as it has been since 1801”.

However, unlike the census in 2011, respondents cannot answer according to their merely self-declared identity.

New guidance to accompany this year’s census states that respondents should use the sex recorded on one of their legal documents “such as birth certificate, Gender Recognition Certificate, or passport”.

‘Ideologically captured’

In 2019, eighty leading social statisticians wrote to all three directors of the UK census authorities expressing concern over proposed census guidance which advised respondents that they may “respond in terms of their self-identified gender”.

The experts said the guidelines would “effectively transform the longstanding sex question into a question about gender identity” and may “actively undermine data reliability”.

Last year, an academic report criticised the ONS and the National Records of Scotland for ‘jeopardising’ data collected on biological sex by pandering to lobbyists.

The report accused both of being ‘ideologically captured’ by giving too much attention to pro-trans groups and failing to consult with other stakeholders before altering the sex question.

‘Common sense’

The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly welcomed the move but criticised the inclusion of a gender identity question.

“This corrects the mistake made ten years ago. It’s simply common sense to keep biological reality as the norm rather than someone’s personal preference. Not least as part of a process on which planning for health, education, employment and the like are so reliant.

“Even legal sex is not the same as biological sex, and the inclusion of a voluntary ‘gender identity’ question is unnecessary and must not be used as a stepping stone to removing biological sex all together.”

NI and Scotland

The Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency (NISRA) do not plan to ask a question on gender identity in their Census 2021.

However, the Scottish Government’s Chief Statistician Roger Halliday has suggested that questions on biological sex “should not be asked” except in specific medical situations, claiming it is “likely to breach an individual’s human privacy”.

Halliday has yet to publish his formal guidance, but the nation’s Census 2022 will include a question about ‘transgender’ status.

Also see:

People in a street

MSP criticises Scots Gov quango for trans bias on census

Academics oppose self-identification of sex in census

‘Choose your own sex’ question considered for 2021 census

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