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The Census 2021: What Does the LGBTQ+ Data Mean?

Gays in YOUR local area? It's more likely than you think!

A close up image of pink, white, and blue stripes in a diagonal manner.

In late March 2021, the Census happened in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.


The Census is a record of data about the country’s population at that moment in time. People are required to complete a questionnaire of demographic information. This included information such as their age, employment status, place of residence, employment status, and so on. This data was essentially collected for two purposes: research and funding allocation.


The last time this happened was in 2011: a full decade ago. The census happens on a decennial basis, meaning that it occurs once every ten years. During those ten years, a lot of time was spent researching, developing, and designing how the 2021 Census should take shape. Two of the major changes for this Census were the addition of questions regarding gender and sexuality.


Flashforward to today, January 6th 2023 - almost two years later - and the data from the 2021 Census has been published. Over the next year or two, this data will be evaluated and applied for “future planning”. In the meantime, though, we just have a load of interesting stats and figures to take a look at.


There’s so much data published that it’s a little difficult to know where to begin. What are the figures? What do the figures represent? What does the data actually mean? Here at QSO we’re taking a quick break from talking about LGBTQ+ arts and culture to put our actual training to use. When we aren’t writing about Charli XCX or queer life sims, we’re actually a mathematician and a psychologist - so we’re pretty well equipped to sort through and interpret data sets to make the whole thing a little less overwhelming.


All of the data used in this article is taken directly from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website and is publicly available for you to take a look at yourself. With all of that in mind - let’s take a look at where things are at.


What exactly is the Census data?

The Census is essentially a snapshot of demographic data in the country at that point in time. The data is collected based on the individuals in a household, and centres around a fairly expansive list of topics.


In relation to sexuality and gender specifically, people who were over 16 in 2021 were asked non-compulsory questions regarding how they identified or what labels they used. In both cases, this was just some fairly simple categorisation questions. That's to say, you would be asked to select or write-in which answer felt most correct at that point for your identity.


Because the questions were only asked to those who were at least 16, this means that all percentages you see in relation to the Census account for the percentage of the population who identify that way who were at least 16 years of age in 2021. Furthermore, since the data collection took place in 2021, that means this data isn't actually representative of current 16 year olds - because those people are now around 18.


The data that was collected in these questions was then aggregated with others in your local area like so:

Sexuality (%)


Region

Gay or Lesbian

Bisexual

Pansexual

Asexual

Queer

Other non-heterosexual orientations*

England

1.54

1.29

0.23

0.06

0.03

0.02

Wales

1.49

1.24

0.18

0.06

0.02

0.01

North East

1.56

1.19

0.18

0.06

0.02

0.01

North West

1.69

1.22

0.2

0.05

0.02

0.02

Yorkshire & the Humber

1.43

1.31

0.22

0.06

0.03

0.02

East Midlands

1.28

1.25

0.21

0.06

0.02

0.02

West Midlands

1.21

1.06

0.2

0.05

0.02

0.02

East of England

1.21

1.14

0.21

0.06

0.02

0.02

London

2.23

1.52

0.37

0.05

0.06

0.04

South East

1.48

1.29

0.22

0.06

0.03

0.02

South West

1.43

1.43

0.22

0.07

0.03

0.02


and:

Gender (%)


Region

Non-cis, unspecified **

Trans woman

Trans man

Non-binary

All other gender identities

Not answered

England

0.25

0.1

0.1

0.06

0.04

5.98

Wales

0.16

0.07

0.08

0.06

0.04

6.32

North East

0.2

0.08

0.09

0.06

0.03

4.73

North West

0.23

0.09

0.09

0.06

0.03

5.31

Yorkshire & the Humber

0.25

0.09

0.09

0.06

0.04

5.81

East Midlands

0.22

0.08

0.09

0.06

0.03

6.08

West Midlands

0.26

0.1

0.1

0.05

0.03

6.33

East of England

0.2

0.09

0.09

0.05

0.04

5.62

London

0.46

0.16

0.16

0.08

0.05

7.88

South East

0.18

0.09

0.09

0.07

0.04

5.42

South West

0.14

0.08

0.08

0.07

0.04

5.59

*Rephrased for clarity: "All other sexual orientations"

**Rephrased for clarity: "Gender identity different from sex registered at birth but no specific identity given"


Breaking the data down further by region

We’ve spent some time studying the interactive map of England and Wales, sorting by the various gender and sexuality categories that are available. Quite a lot of the data is broadly what you might expect, with Brighton and London mostly capturing the proverbial flag, but some other places get a look in too. As well as that, the actual specific breakdown of those areas is quite interesting.

A stacked bar chart representing the sexual orientation breakdown across the various regions of england and wales. It is in rainbow order. The scale on the side goes up to 4.5. The labels are Eng, Wal, NE, NEW, Y&tH, EM, WM, EOE, LDN, SE, and SW.

Stacked bar chart graph representing the gender data across england and wales, in rainbow order. The scale up the side goes up to 0.9. The regions are in the same order as the graphic above.

The full regional data is still way too complex to be completely broken down in this article, so we can only provide a brief, abridged geography. You should take a look at the map yourself if you want to take a closer look at any of the Census’ findings for England and Wales.


Sexuality

This graph lets us break down the Census’ findings in lots of interesting ways. First of all, we’re going to focus on its breakdown of sexuality, specifically looking at all non-heterosexual identities. Around 3.1% of the population declared that they weren’t straight. Breaking that down further, there’s some really fascinating findings represented on the map. Here’s some that jumped out to us:

  • The highest concentration of non-heterosexual people in England and Wales is in Kemptown, Brighton. A whopping 20.11% of the population here isn’t straight - roughly 1 in 5! It’s also home to the highest gay and/or lesbian population, a lofty 14.32%. Brighton’s a gay hotspot for a reason.

  • The new bisexual capital of the country is Aberystwyth! According to the Census data, 1 in 10 (10.15%) people you meet in Aberystwyth will be bisexual.

  • The highest density of people identifying as “all other sexual orientations” as a group category can be found in Burgess Park in London. 8.24% of people here ID as such.

Despite pansexual and asexual being distinct options on the Census and in the full data set, there is not an option to filter the map on the most detailed level to either of these orientations. However, if you don’t mind having a decreased degree of precision in terms of the exact geographic area, you can find a full breakdown of where the highest population of pansexual, asexual, and queer folks are:

  • Looking for hot pansexuals in your area? Try moving to Southwark in central London, where 0.67% of your neighbours will be pan.

  • An epicentre of asexuals is in Cambridge, where 0.31% of people surveyed are ace. The asexual density on the map fans out beautifully from here, with an above-average amount of aces stretching as far as Peterborough.

  • As far as people who identify as queer go, look no further than Brighton and Hove. It’s the runaway victor with 0.28% of the population IDing this way. Hackney is a close second at 0.24%.


Gender

262,000 people stated on the Census that they don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth - making that 0.5% of the population. As well as that relatively simplistic question, there was also the opportunity to identify in a number of different ways. With the option to filter the map by specific gender categorisations, there’s lots of data to get our teeth into here. It’s well worth taking a look yourself to see the whole story, but here’s some jazzy findings:

  • The highest concentration of trans people (all non-cis categories inclusive) in England and Wales is in Burgess Park, London, with an astonishing 8.12%!

  • Interestingly, this is the same place with 8.24% of the population identifying as “any other sexual orientation”.

  • The highest concentration of trans men belongs to Brent, West London, where 0.28% of the population are trans men. Amazingly, Wolverhampton was very close behind. What are you all doing there lads?

  • The highest concentration of trans women is in Barking and Dagenham, East London. In this area, 0.25% of the population are trans women. Note that trans women and trans men are concentrated on opposite sides of the capital - they’re closing in…

  • Moving away from London this time, the highest concentration of nonbinary people, perhaps unsurprisingly, is in Brighton and Hove. This bad boy’s population is 0.35% nonbinary. God, I wish everywhere was like that.

  • The Isle of Scilly has some fascinating results. For starters, supposedly 0.00% of the population are trans men (I’m sure this is inaccurate - if you’re out there, hi!). Even more amazingly, 0.23% of participants identified as a gender identity not listed - the highest concentration in the country!


So, what does all of this tell us?

Right now, it’s difficult to say. Over time, we’re hoping to spend more time digging through the data set. Assuredly, many other researchers will too, particularly after the data comes out from Scotland’s 2022 Census. However, this is the first time there has been a clear record of “us” made on this scale, across these countries. It’s a major, historic moment in research.


Although it’s undoubtedly a monumental point in history, something that is important to note is that these figures are probably not perfect. Sometimes in research, we talk about data being non-representative or lacking validity. When data is lacking validity, it means that it may not be a true, full picture of what is happening. This could be the case in terms of the Census, too. For example, around 92% of people chose to disclose their sexuality, meaning that 8% of people in the country didn’t state their identity. That’s to say that for all the data provided in the Census 2021 shows there are a lot of us - it may not, necessarily, represent all of us yet.


There are a whole number of reasons why people may not have provided fully accurate data about themselves with regards to their gender, sexuality, or any other section of the Census. Some people won’t have been able to disclose their identity due to their living situation. Others may have been uncomfortable with providing the government with an accurate image of who they are. And, of course, a whole section of people won’t have identified in the way they do now. I mean, who among us identifies exactly the same way as we did in 2021?


Of course, that’s not to disregard the findings of the 2021 Census in any way. It’s still an amazing data set that’s hopefully indicative of progress in this country. It’s more just to say that, if any of the figures are lower than you’d hoped, if it makes you feel lonely, or like you’re the “only gay/trans in the village”: you won’t be. There will be so many more of us out there than any data set could ever tell us.



 

Toni Oisin H.C. is the Head of Audio at QSO Media. Read more of his writing here.


AC is the Head of Written Content at QSO Media. Read more of their articles here.


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