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A Magazine for Sheffield

New data on gender and sexuality provides a mixed picture for Sheffield

2021 census captures LGBT+ data for the first time – but there are serious concerns.

Stannington panorama
Rachel Rae Photography

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released data collected from the 2021 census on sexuality and gender orientation for the first time.

Across England and Wales, 44.9 million people answered questions about sexual orientation (92.5% of the population). Of this group:

  • Around 43.4 million people (89.4%) identified as straight or heterosexual.

  • Around 1.5 million people (3.2%) identified with an LGB+ orientation ('Gay or Lesbian', 'Bisexual' or 'Other sexual orientation').

  • The remaining 3.6 million people (7.5%) did not answer the question.

When it came to gender identity, a total of 45.7 million people (94% of the population) answered the question, “Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?” 93.5% of people answered 'yes' and 0.5% of people said 'no.'

This is significant because it's the first year the ONS has sought data on gender and sexuality. Data collection for marginalised groups is important because it provides a quantitative base for local councils, charities and voluntary sector organisations to determine the needs of communities; they’re better able to allocate funding and resources if they know who needs them. But the data for Sheffield also throws some light on another issue.


Britain is increasingly known as TERF Island. TERF stands for ‘trans exclusionary radical feminist' and is one term used to describe transphobes. As Hashaam Yaqoob explained recently in Yorkshire Bylines:

public figures that include councillors and MPs have joined in the debate, increasingly in a way that appears to deliberately stoke the flames of this culture war. Statements expressing concern over the increasing rates of transgender children, often conflate issues of gender dysphoria with child abuse, coercion and mutilation.

And these public statements frequently start with affirming a belief as to what constitutes a boy or a girl, man or woman… confusing the issue of sex and gender from the outset.

The moral panic around trans people has been inflamed by public figures who see the existence of trans people as a culture war fought in schools, universities, in popular culture and more. As Now Then’s Sam Gregory wrote last year, activists are concerned at rising transphobia in Sheffield:

Campaigners also report an increase in day-to-day attacks and discrimination directed at trans people in the city, following the rise of the so-called 'gender critical' movement nationally.

It is still the case that:

A staggering 45% of trans young people in the UK have attempted suicide while 84% say they have self-harmed, according to 2017 figures from the charity Stonewall.

If coverage of trans people in the media and online were to be believed, it would seem as though they were taking over the country. The fact that less than 1% of people identify with a gender that is different from their assigned birth sex speaks volumes about the campaign of demonisation and vitriol that TERFs are waging.

If anything, the data from the ONS will be vital in making sure that trans people have the resources and support they need for education, healthcare and more.

A mixed bag

You can take a look yourself at the interactive maps the ONS have built with the 2021 data.

For Sheffield, 4.13% of people identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or other (LGB+):

Screenshot 2023 01 16 at 12 19 40

The city centre had one of the highest proportions of LGB+ people in Sheffield:

Screenshot 2023 01 16 at 12 28 52

When it came to gender orientation 0.76% of people in Sheffield had a gender identity different from their sex registered at birth:

Screenshot 2023 01 16 at 12 19 59

Burngreave and Grimesthorpe had one of the highest percentages of people with a different gender identity than sex assigned at birth:

Screenshot 2023 01 16 at 12 29 14

It’s important to remember that some people may not feel safe disclosing their gender identities and sexual orientation so, as with any data, this is an incomplete picture. Growing transphobia could well make it dangerous for trans people who are reluctant to be recorded as trans in an increasingly hostile country.

It’s also debatable to what extent councils and the government at large will be willing to use this data to support queer people, rather than to further target them. Central government starting what could be a protracted battle to block Scottish gender recognition law this week is further proof, were it needed, that it's actively choosing to vilify trans people for political gain.

In the face of such comprehensive institutional transphobia, what isn’t debatable is that support for trans people must be at the forefront of community cohesion and values.

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