January 25, 2023 - 4:07pm

New census data from the Office of National Statistics indicates that two-thirds of transwomen list their sex as female, while the other third say they are male. How does that work? It cannot be explained by biology — all transwomen are biologically male — or legal status. Three weeks ago we learned that there were 47,572 transwomen in England and Wales but, since only 6000 UK gender recognition certificates have ever been issued, the proportion who are legally female is likely to be around 10% at most.

The reality is that over 30,000 male people self-identified as female on the census — they just made up their answer according to how they felt about themselves. It’s hard to imagine so many people choosing their date of birth in the same way, so why sex? Like age, sex is meaningful, measurable, and objective, and it is fundamental to human society. While the conflation with sexual intercourse has often been awkward — the joke, ‘Sex? Yes please! predates my own childhood — sex has been obfuscated by gender identity, whatever that means.

Most aspects of the census are probably unaffected. The census identified only 262,113 trans people (those with a gender identity different from their sex registered at birth) from a total population of almost 60 million — less than half a percent — so for most purposes we will be within the statistical uncertainty.

But it means that the data relating to our own demographic will be seriously compromised, and that is a shame. For example, we now know that, of the 30,257 people who self-identify as non-binary, two-thirds also self-identify as female. Most could well be female anyway, but we cannot be sure.

Credit: ONS

We should perhaps be even more cautious with the data when considering the sex breakdown within age groups — the overall numbers are smaller still. I do not, for example, believe the data that suggests that 4.27% of trans females are aged over 75. That is a greater proportion than the 4.18% of trans males in the same age band. But self-declared sex has probably obliterated the data.

The age breakdown, though, we might believe. Transgender identification is a young person’s thing. Children and young adults aged between 16 and 24 are far more likely to identify as trans than their grandparents. That was hardly a surprise, but it is interesting that the expected pattern was confirmed by the census.

An individual census response is confidential, so it is one place where those in the closet can be truly open. Two reasons have been suggested for the huge increase in the number of youngsters coming out as trans: firstly, previous generations have suppressed their transgender identities and are still suffering in silence in the closet; otherwise, that trans and non-binary identity is merely the latest fad to hit youth culture. In my view, the census suggests the latter, and like all fads it will loosen its grip on many of those young people when they grow up and settle down into adult life.

Debbie Hayton is a teacher and a transgender campaigner.