Sex and gender identity are two different things
Everyone has a sex and some people say they have a gender identity too. Transgender people identify with a gender that is different from the sex they were born. Gender identity is a feeling and sex is about how you were born and the body you have. Even Stonewall agrees that sex and gender identity are two different things.
Stonewall definition of transgender: An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.
Transwomen were born male but can identify as female. This means their sex is male but their gender identity is female. Both are important but distinct characteristics about a person. Sometimes we need to collect data on both, and to be clear which one is which, otherwise datasets become confused and unusable.
Some aspects of the state are doing a bad job by mixing up sex and gender identity. Other aspects of the state are doing better by collecting data separately on both. The mix-up and inconsistency means valuable data gets lost and false assumptions are made.
The prison service records both sex and gender identity.
When an offender enters the prison service in England and Wales the sex on their birth certificate is recorded. They can also separately register a self-declared gender identity if they choose. The 2020 transgender prison policy states:
“Arrangements must be in place to determine the legally-recognised gender of all individuals at the first point of contact. This will inform assessments and decisions where binary (male/female) services for individuals are required*. Where legal gender is determined, the legal gender must be recorded on all case administration systems where ‘sex’ (male or female) is required.”
“Arrangements are to be in place to provide individuals with an opportunity to declare the gender with which they identify, which may be different to the sex assigned at birth. Self-disclosed gender is also to be recorded (in addition to the legally recognised gender where this is different) and the Policy Framework applied as set out below.”
Also, as part of their annual Offender Equality Monitoring they publish how many prisoners have declared themselves as transgender. They report figures on both “legal gender” [sex on a birth certificate] and “gender with which the prisoner identifies”.
Of these, 129 reported their legal gender as male, 32 reported their legal gender as female and 2 did not state their gender. When asked about the gender with which the prisoner identified, 130 identified as female, 20 as male and 13 did not provide a response.
While the prison service has improved the way it records and publishes its data on transgender prisoners more needs to change. Under current methodology transgender people who have changed the sex on their birth certificate by obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) will not appear in the annual figures for transgender prisoners. Male-born prisoners with a GRC will appear in the ‘female’ offender records, meaning we have no way of knowing exactly how many male-born prisoners are currently housed in female prisons.
Prisoners who have already transitioned and have a full Gender Recognition Certificate are excluded from this dataset.
The ONS will now start recording sex and gender identity separately
In the last Census in 2011 there was just one question on this topic:
“What is your sex – please select male or female for your sex”
There was no separate question on ‘gender identity’ so transgender people were told they could answer the sex question with their gender identity instead.
“Transgender or transsexual: select the answer which 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”.
In a welcome change, this year the 2021 Census will ask two separate questions; one about sex and one about gender identity. The head of ONS has indicated in a recent interview on the Today program that this time everyone, including transgender people, should answer the question “What is your sex” according to what is written on their birth certificate.
“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.”
UPDATE February 2021: ONS boss reverses commitment to collecting high quality sex data in Census
Police record crimes based on self-declared gender as if it was sex.
In 2019 we revealed using Freedom of Information laws that police forces in England and Wales were now recording ‘self-declared gender identity’ in the gender [sex] category in official crime statistics. This was confirmed by the National Police Chiefs Council in a statement to the Sunday Times.
“How gender is recorded is a matter for each individual force. However, as a general rule we will accept the details that an individual provides us and treat them accordingly. If there is an honestly-held doubt about a person’s gender, then every effort will be made to establish that person’s gender identity”
This means people born male who self-identify as female are being recorded in ‘female’ crime statistics. This includes rapists and male-born sex offenders.
Based on police records the BBC recently made the claim that more women were sexually abusing children.
Daily newspapers also reported this apparent increase with one headline claiming:
However, it was assumed by journalists that records of ‘female-perpetrated child sexual abuse’ referred only to women, whereas we know these police crime figures will also include males who identify as women. The possibility that the apparent increase was at least in part due to more reports of male-perpetrated child abuse was missed.
We know from the most recently available prison statistics from March 2019 there were 125 legally-female offenders convicted of sex crimes plus at least another 74 male-born transgender offenders also convicted of sex crimes. All 199 of these sex crimes would have been recorded by the police as ‘female’ despite around a third of them having been committed by male people.
Court reporters are misreporting self-declared gender identity as if it were sex.
Judges are being advised to use self-declared gender identity instead of sex in the Equal Treatment Bench Book (page 248).
“It should be possible to recognise a person’s gender identity and their present name for nearly all court and tribunal purposes, regardless of whether they have obtained legal recognition of their gender by way of a Gender Recognition Certificate.”
This has led to court reporting by newspapers now reporting crimes by males who identify as women as if they were committed by women
“Former female PCSO, 34, who now works as staff member at Lincolnshire Police is charged with making explosives and importing weapons after raid on her house” published by Mail Online on 8th October 2020 (complaint #28445-20)
When we complain to the press regulator IPSO that such newspaper reports are misleading readers we are told there has been no breach of the Editors’ Code because reporters are ‘accurately’ reporting what’s said in court. No account is being made that self-declared gender identity is not the same thing as someone’s sex. Sex can no longer be assumed from pronouns and names.
This matters because obscuring male-pattern crimes distorts public perception of who is committing the crimes. It is rare for women to commit violent or sexual crimes but these headlines falsely suggest otherwise. IPSO is reviewing its transgender guidance and we are working with them to sort this problem out.
If official statistics and public records are to retain meaning there needs to be a clear and consistent way to record sex and gender identity. While some organisations recognise the need to record sex and gender identity differently others still do not. Conflating the two means data gets lost and confusion is caused, leading to false claims.
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