The decision to not adopt recommendations to include more detailed questions on sex and gender in Census 2022 has been described as “discouraging” by transgender equality campaigners.
Because of EU legislation, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) is legally obliged to provide two options when selecting sex in question two on this year’s Census — ‘male’ or ‘female’.
Those who don’t fill in either option will randomly be assigned a gender, according to the CSO.
Noah Halpin, healthcare officer at the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (Teni) said that this has resulted in "having trans, non-binary, and intersex people’s identities essentially erased from census data once again”.
He added that the lack of options provides “no statistics or information to the State when it comes to relevant legislation or service provision relating to the lives and wellbeing of these already marginalised communities”.
Following the 2016 census, which also provided two options for sex, the CSO launched a public consultation on the content of the Census 2022 questionnaire in late 2017.
Teni and the Hate and Hostility Research Group made an official submission entitled ‘Asking the Gender Question’ at that time.
The CSO confirmed that “several submissions were made requesting a new question on gender identity” during this consultation process.
However, the Census Advisory Group (CAG) proposed that the CSO “should test and develop a new question that would capture robust data on gender identity before it should be considered for inclusion on a census”.
This led to the introduction of a gender identity question on both a household survey and as part of the new Pulse surveys.
According to the CSO, a question on gender identity has been recommended for pilot testing as part of the preparations for the next census, subject to approval by the CAG and government.
Mr Halpin told thethat the decision to not include such a question in the Census 2022 form was “discouraging”.
The CSO has said that "in order to make the census as inclusive as possible”, they are advising anyone who has difficulty answering question two to mark both male and female boxes.
“When both response options have been marked on the census form, the CSO will be required to impute a value of either male or female to each digital record,” it was stated, adding that the values will reflect the distribution of the sex variable across the population, which is approximately 50/50.
The original paper form will not be amended however and will remain unchanged when made public 100 years from now.
Mr Halpin said: “As we know, filling out the census form and filling it out accurately is a legal requirement.
“However, by not accurately representing people’s gender identity and/or sex in the questions, it makes it impossible for many people to abide by this legal requirement.”
Casey O’Kelly, who’s non-binary, told the Irish Examiner that this “is only the latest in a long line of symptoms of the Irish government's lax attitude towards the rights and livelihoods of trans, non-binary and intersex people”.
“This comes despite the fact that almost every major political party promised advances in legal recognition for non-binary people in their most recent election manifestoes,” they added.
"The fact that we are being randomly assigned a sex if we do not declare is only adding insult to injury."