The vast majority of male-born transwomen still have a penis

How big is the transgender population in the UK?

There is no robust data on the number of trans people in the UK. Data on gender identity is not collected in any government social survey. However, estimates are in the region of 1% of the UK population identifying as transgender.

1) In 2009 the Gender Identity Research and Education Service (GIRES, a transgender lobby organisation) published a report that was funded by the Home Office.  This first estimate of the size of the trans population in the UK, based on research from the USA and Netherlands, data from Gender Recognition Panels and Gender Identity Clinics.

GIRES estimated the trans population (ie people who experience some degree of gender variance) was approximately 0.6% – 1% of the UK adult population. However, it does appear that this estimate is largely based on studies of men who cross-dress, and the estimate of most (80%) of trans people being born male.

2) In 2012 the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported that 100 people out of 10,000 (1%) answered yes to the following question:

“Have you gone through any part of a process (including thoughts or actions) to change from the sex you were described as at birth to the gender you identify with, or do you intend to? (This could include changing your name, wearing different clothes, taking hormones or having gender reassignment surgery.)”

However, this study was designed to investigate ‘how’ to ask about transgender identities and is not necessarily representative reflection of the transgender community in the UK.

3) In 2018, the UK government produced an estimate for the GRA consultation based on the lowest (0.35%) and highest (1%) prevalence rates, based on a Californian study in 2016 and the 2009 GIRES study.

The government estimates 200,000 – 500,000 adults identify as transgender in the UK. See page 82 of the government’s consultation document.

4) The ONS has plans to ask about gender identity in the next census in 2021.

This means no reliable figures on the number of transgender people in the UK will be obtained for another 3 years.

How many transgender people legally transition?

The number of Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) that have been granted since 2004 is 4,910 (June 2018). Three quarters are owned by male-born transgender people and mostly aged 50+. Based on prevalence estimate of 200,000-500,000 trans in UK this means only 1-3% of trans people have changed the sex on their birth certificate. The overwhelming majority of trans people remain legally the sex their were born.

How many transgender people medically transition?

In 2011, GIRES estimated that only 20% of the UK transgender population were likely to seek medical treatment for their condition at some stage. Based on a UK trans prevalence of 1% and assuming a 50:50 split of males and females that means there are 200,000 male-born transgender people in the UK will no body modifications whatsoever. Of the 50,000 trans-identifying males that do seek medical treatment most of these would be expected to be undergoing hormone treatment and/or breast implants. Only a very small proportion of this 20% will have genital reconstruction surgery.

No one knows for sure how many transwomen keep their penis, but there are fewer than 10 surgeons in the UK who can undertake the relevant operation. Even if they each performed one operation every single day this would still only represent an absolute maximum of 3,500 surgeries each year. The actual number performed is likely to be very much smaller than this. An estimate of just a few hundred operations each year would not be unreasonable.


We don’t know how many transgender people there are in the UK but estimates are up to 1%. The vast majority do not have a GRC and so remain legally the sex they were born. The vast majority also do not seek medical treatment so retain the anatomy of their birth.

Contrary to public perception the overwhelming majority of male-born transgender people retain their penis and are fully male-bodied.