Britain’s forthcoming 2021 census will allow respondents to report a sex different from the one assigned to them at birth, as well as ask about sexual orientation for the first time.
An “information paper” from the Office of National Statistics revealed that the answers to the mandatory question “What is your sex?” will still give “male” and “female” as options, but with the following additional information:
“If you are one or more of non-binary, transgender, have variations of sex characteristics, sometimes also known as intersex, the answer you give can be different from what is on your birth certificate. If you’re not sure how to answer, use the sex registered on your official documents, such as passport or driving licence, or whichever describes your sex,” an accompanying statement says.
The takeaway for many of Britain’s tabloids is that the ability to select a sex will complicate how funding is allocated. According to NHS pediatrician Dr. Julie Maxwell, one of few experts cited by the Mail on Sunday and several other newspapers, the adjustment will mean losing “any meaningful knowledge of how often health problems are happening in men and women:”
“If the national statistics are skewed in this way so you don’t know how many biological men or women there are, and if you add on to that the fact people are already changing their sex on medical records, you lose any meaningful knowledge of how often health problems are happening in men and women.
“And my biggest fear for children is they are not going to get appropriate health services allocated for their needs because of messing around with statistics.”
The census will also ask those over 16 to voluntarily state whether their gender is the same as the sex they were registered at birth. If they choose “no,” they can enter a term they use to describe their gender.
The ONS said it was advised by several transgender advocacy groups, like Mermaids, though none of the tabloids seem to have thought to ask those groups for comment. Jezebel reached out to Mermaids and will update this post if and when we hear back.