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 0.5-1% 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 asked a voluntary question about gender identity in the Census for England and Wales in 2021. The Census reported there were 262,000 trans people, equivalent to 0.5% of the population.
The question for the 2021 for England and Wales census was: “Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?” A no answer led to a write-in box for “gender identity”. However, statisticians do not know if the first census of transgender people in England and Wales underestimates or overestimates the true picture. They admitted respondents without good English might not have understood the survey question concerning gender.
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.
In 2016, a meta-analysis of 27 studies estimated a rate of approx 10 per 100,000 of the population (0.01%) have a transgender diagnosis and/or surgical or hormonal treatment. In contrast 355 per 100,000 of the population(0.35%) self-identity as transgender. This means only 2.8% of the transgender community is undergoing any gender-affirming treatment with the vast majority 97.2% simply self-identity with no modifications to their sexed body whatsoever.
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.
There is also data available from the US HERE showing that genital surgery is very rare. In this study (sampling 20% of all outpatient hospital discharges in the US) there were only a few hundred genital surgeries performed each year. (205 in 2012, 250 in 2013, 345 in 2014). This suggests that between 1000-2000 genital surgeries were performed across the whole of the US each. If the trans community in the US represents 1% of the US population this means we’d expect there to be in the region of 3 million people identifying as trans in the US. This means less than 0.1% of the trans community undergoes genital surgery each year supporting our conclusion that the vast majority of males who identify as women retain their penis.
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.