LGBTQ+ communities to be recognised in Census 2021 for the first time - here’s how

The 2021 Census will include two new questions relevant to LGBTQ+ communities (Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Pride in London)The 2021 Census will include two new questions relevant to LGBTQ+ communities (Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Pride in London)
The 2021 Census will include two new questions relevant to LGBTQ+ communities (Photo: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Pride in London)

Local level information about the proportion of the population that identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender will be gathered for the first time in next month’s census.

The census is a once-in-a-decade survey run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics, and it gives the most accurate estimate of all people and households in England and Wales.

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‘A better understanding of LGBT+ populations’

Census 2021 aims to shed light on the needs of different groups and communities and ensure that planning and funding decisions by centre and local governments, the NHS and the charity sector are based on the best information available.

Following discussions, testing and research with the public, charities and government bodies, the census this year will ask two new questions relevant to LGBTQ+ communities on gender identity and sexual orientation.

A statement from the ONS explains: “These questions will give a better understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations which will help organisations to combat any inequalities these groups may face and show where services are needed.”

The new questions are voluntary, and will be asked of those aged 16 years and over. The ONS emphasises that “no one will be forced to answer if they do not want to”.

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Additionally, people can request an individual census questionnaire to provide their answers separately to their current household, if they wish to.

‘No robust data on gender identity’

Iain Bell, the ONS deputy national statistician, said: “While there are estimates of sexual orientation at a national and regional level, it is not possible to produce robust estimates for all local authorities - that’s what census data will give.

“And there is no robust data available on gender identity at all. These data are needed by local authorities and service providers to inform the provision of services. The sexual orientation and gender identity questions will be voluntary people aged 16 and over.

“Without robust data on the size of the LGBT population at a national and local level, decision makers are operating in a vacuum, unaware of the extent and nature of disadvantage which LGBT people may be experiencing in terms of health, educational outcomes, employment and housing.”

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‘A historic moment for LGBT+ communities’

Nancy Kelley, Chief Executive of charity Stonewall, said: “The 2021 Census will be a historic moment for LGBT+ communities. For the first time, the Census includes two new voluntary questions on sexual orientation and trans status, as well as clear and inclusive guidance on how to answer the Census sex question. This will give us an accurate picture of the size and make up of the LGBT+ population in Britain.

“For far too long, our community has been a hidden population. Collecting this vital data will ensure researchers, policymakers, service providers and community organisations are able to understand the needs of LGBT+ people and develop tailored services to help us be treated fairly and achieve our potential.

“Now we need to make sure all lesbain, gay, bi and trans people in England and Wales feel confident and supported to fill in the Census on 21 March.”

When does the Census take place?

Census day is Sunday 21 March, with results available in 2022.

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Census 2021 is a digital-first census, and will be run mostly online, with households receiving a letter with a unique access code in March. These codes will allow them to complete the questionnaire on a computer, tablet, phone or laptop.