The UK’s National Statistician and head of the ONS, Professor Ian Diamond, has confirmed that the question in the Census “what is your sex” should be answered according to someone’s legal sex, and not a self-declared gender identity.
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today program he said:
“The question on sex is very simply your legal sex, there is then subsequently a question later which asks people over 16 the identity of their gender.
(You can read the full transcript at the end of this article)
This marks a change from the 2011 guidance on how to answer “what is your sex”. In 2011 transgender people were told they could answer this according to how they identify. However, since then an additional question has now been added to the Census that allows people to record their identity separately, we and others have argued that the sex question must once again mean the sex you were born.
In 2011 the guidance said “If you are transgender or transsexual, please select the option for the sex that you identify yourself as. You can select either ‘male’ or ‘female’, whichever you believe is correct, irrespective of the details recorded on your birth certificate. You do not need to have a Gender Recognition Certificate”
Stonewall and others have argued against this. They want transgender people to be able to effectively record their gender identity twice; once in the sex question and again in the ‘gender identity’ question. This conflation of sex and gender identity means that information about sex will be lost.
In the vast majority of cases ‘legal sex’ is the same as sex registered at birth. This is true for most transgender people too. Most transwomen are legally male. Most transmen are legally female. The ‘legal sex’ written on their birth certificate remains the sex they were born. Legal sex only differs from sex at birth for a handful of transgender people who have acquired a Gender Recognition Certificate; currently less than 5000 people in the UK. The legal sex of people who identify as non-binary always remains their sex registered at birth.
Why does accurate data collection on sex matter?
Sex-disaggregated data is vital to understand differences between male people and female people. It’s important for equality monitoring to identify when and how people are being treated unfairly because of their sex. Data on sex is used to make sure public policy works for women and girls.
When sex and gender identity is conflated in data collection it means data labelled as ‘female’ can also include some males. This can dramatically skew the data and leads to misunderstanding and confusion.
For example we know the police now record ‘female crime’ based on gender identity. This means female crime statistics now include women who were born female AND transwomen who were born male. Some crimes, particularly sexual and violent crimes, are mostly committed by people born male (there are over 13,000 male sex offenders in prison compared to fewer than 150 females). This means female crime stats that include any males are being seriously distorted.
In a recent radio documentary the BBC claimed that ““Between 2015 and 2019, the numbers of reported cases of female-perpetrated child sexual abuse to police in England and Wales rose from 1,249 to 2,297 – an increase of 84%.“. Newspapers picked up on this shocking rise with headlines such as ” “Number of female paedophiles nearly doubles”. Everyone assumed this means more women are sexually abusing children. No account was taken of whether counting males who identify as women is responsible for this apparent increase.
When asked about the way they record crime the National Police Chiefs’ Council has said “There is no evidence to suggest that recording a person’s gender based on the information that they provide will have an impact on an investigation or on national crime statistics, because of the low numbers involved.”
This complacency is misguided. The effect on female crime statistics is very significant. In this case the proportion of child sexual abusers who are women is tiny, meaning statistics can be seriously distorted by including a few males who ‘self-id’ as women in the female category. We know that there are almost as many male-born sex offenders who identify as women (76) as there are female-born sex offenders (125) in prison in England and Wales. This means over a third of all ‘women’ committing sex crimes are in fact males identifying as women.
By allowing males to be recorded as female, police forces are collecting false and misleading statistics. This obscures male-pattern offending as if it were female.
The conflation of sex and gender identity in data collection must now stop.
Interview transcript. Today Program 22/1/21 at 8.24amPresenter: The question on sex. Should you answer that taking into account how you were born or how you live?Diamond: The question on sex is very simply your legal sex, there is then subsequently a question later which asks people over 16 the identity of their gender.Presenter: And what is your view on broader questions on data collection on biological sex. Scotland’s chief statistician has suggested that they generally shouldn’t be asked questions on biological sex except in specific medical situations because it could breach someone’s privacy.Diamond: Our questions are very simple. The question on sex is precisely the same question as it has been since 1801 and we haven’t since that time breached any privacies.Presenter: I don’t mean so much in relation to the census but he was asked more broadly about data collection on the basis of biological sex. And his view is that in general questions on the basis of biological sex shouldn’t be asked apart from in medical circumstances.Diamond: That’s probably a fair answer from the chief stat of Scotland.Presenter: And your view? How would you answer the same question
Diamond: I’m pretty clear in my mind that 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. We can have a longer question about whether you are doing this is terms of a particular social of biological survey – a different question. But in terms of a census I believe the right way to do it is precisely the way we are doing it by asking about the legal sex.
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