Gender Census 2016: UK Report

Original Tumblr post


I am pleased to announce that I have the UK-only results of this year’s survey to share. This post will focus on the UK results, while comparing with the worldwide results.

The survey ran from 8th January to 16th January 2016, for 8 days. It was promoted on social networks (Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, and anywhere that anyone felt like sharing) and the Project Wonderful ad network, and the survey was built with Google Forms. Participants were self-selecting, and were invited to take part if they were neither exclusively always male nor exclusively always female. It asked:

  • Which words from a list (plus a textbox) participants identified with [optional, checkboxes]
  • Which title from a list (plus a textbox) participants most wanted to use [optional, single answer only]
  • Which pronouns from a list (plus a textbox) participants were happy with [optional, checkboxes]
  • Whether the participant is in the UK [required]
  • Two pilot questions for possible inclusion in next year’s survey [optional, open text box, not discussed here, results not published]
  • For feedback – most of the questions asked have been answered in this FAQ post.

There were 3,078 responses altogether. I removed 28 (mostly duplicates, and a sprinkling of trolls) from the results, leaving 3,055 (890 or 29% of which were from the UK).

[The results on Google Sheets]

Question 1: Which of the following best describe(s) in English how you think of yourself?

This year I specified English in each of the questions for the first time.

The top 5 for the UK were:

  1. Nonbinary 67.4% (up 7.9%)
  2. Genderqueer 40.2% (up 0.8%)
  3. Trans 36.1% (up 6.4%)
  4. Transgender 30.3% (up 1.7%)
  5. Fluid gender/genderfluid 29.8% (up 0.5%)

The increase in use of “nonbinary” is striking. Worldwide it only increased by about 1%, compared to about 8% in the UK alone.

The main difference when comparing with the worldwide results is a lack of the word “agender”, which made it to number 4 overall. “Genderqueer” has gotten less popular worldwide but has gained popularity in the UK, despite complaints worldwide that the inclusion of queer makes it a controversial umbrella term. “Trans*” has dipped in popularity both in the UK and worldwide.

Here’s a summary:

  • 22 identity words were offered in the survey.
  • 12 identity words were typed into the “other” box more than once.
  • 42 identity words were typed into the “other” box only once.
  • That’s 76 identity words total.
  • People chose on average 3.8 identity words each, compared to 3.9 worldwide.
  • Most people (23%) chose only one identity label, compared to worldwide where 21% of people chose only one identity label.
  • 91.9% of people chose between 1 and 7 identity labels, compared to 91% worldwide.

Question 2: In a magical world where all title fields on forms were optional and write-your-own, what would you want yours to be in English?

This question allowed only one answer, though people very occasionally sneakily used the text box to tell me about either-or situations – and those titles were counted too.

The top 5 were:

  1. Mx 41.3% (up 4.7%)
  2. No title at all 33.6% (down 9.1%)
  3. Neutral career or qual 8.9%
  4. Mr 2.9% (down 2.4%)
  5. A standard title for NB/GQ people 2.6%

Here’s a comparison of UK vs. worldwide, for the curious:

Last year “no title” was most popular, and this year it’s Mx. It’s the same story worldwide. But worldwide Mx is only leading by 1.5%, and in the UK it’s 7.7%. Mx has consistently been more popular in the UK than everywhere else, and I might speculate that this is because it’s much more difficult to avoid titles in the UK.

The “no title” option has gone down very significantly this year, and I’m not sure why that is but I suspect that it may have something to do with me offering more titles as pre-written options this year; last year over 1% of people entered Dr into the other box, so I included it this year by adding gender-inclusive (eg: Dr) and gender-exclusive (eg: Sister) career/qualification titles as two separate options. I also added an “unknown” option. I think these changes and the increasing popularity of Mx account for most of the difference in the “no title” option.

A significant change from last year was my inclusion of a hypothetical gender-exclusive title for nonbinary people, as opposed to the gender-inclusive Mx, Ind, Per, etc. A gender-exclusive nonbinary title would be one that is intended for only nonbinary people to use, in the same way that men get Mr and women get Ms. Internationally this was the most popular gender-exclusive title option at 3.6%, and I’m surprised to note that Mr was more popular in the UK. Although this option asked people choosing it to let me know about any gender-exclusive nonbinary titles in the feedback box, no one suggested one.

The vast majority of people (75%) would rather have Mx or no title at all. This could be for a number of reasons, such as a belief that gender is irrelevant, or the fact that nonbinary people still face significant discrimination and would rather have a gender-inclusive title that anyone can use and therefore theoretically doesn’t out them as nonbinary and/or trans.

Due to them getting under 1% of responses worldwide this year, I will be removing Misc, Pr, Mrs, and gendered career/qualification titles from the list of offered titles next year.

Question 3: Supposing all pronouns were accepted by everyone without question and were easy to learn, which pronouns are you happy for people to use for you?

This question allowed multiple answers, and had a write-in “other” box. The pronouns question always takes me a LOT of hard work for various reasons, so I’m thinking about better ways to ask about this.

The top 5 were:

  • Singular they/them 78.8% (up 3.4%)
  • She/her 24.0% (up 1.7%)
  • He/him 22.0% (down 0.3%)
  • Mix it up 12.7%
  • None/avoid pronouns 9.9% (down 4.1%)

“Mix it up” was a new option this year, and a good idea, I think – a lot of people selected several well-known pronouns as they did last year, but were able to add this very practical detail to their responses.

Here’s a summary:

  • 13 pronouns were offered in the survey.
  • 4 pronouns were typed into the “other” box more than once.
  • 31 pronouns were typed into the “other” box only once.
  • That’s 48 pronouns total.
  • People chose on average 1.9 acceptable pronouns each – slightly lower than the 2 each for worldwide participants.
  • Most people (44.8%) chose only one pronoun.
  • About 3 in 4 people were happy with only 1 or 2 pronouns.

This graph was very similar when worldwide results were included:

Last year I had to add a couple of pronouns because they got over 1% in the “other” text box, but this year only offered pronoun options went over 1%. I was surprised to see the relatively new xe/xem pronoun get more than the well-established zie/hir and Spivak options.

As with last year, he/him and she/her were approximately equal and more acceptable than anything but singular they/them. Some people expressed comfort with a gendered pronoun because it was incongruent with their gender assigned at birth and therefore caused less dysphoria, and some were happy to stick with the familiar pronouns people assume based on birth assignment. Many people chose both he/him and she/her. It demonstrates that one cannot judge gender assigned at birth based on gendered pronouns, and that a comfort with or preference for gendered pronouns doesn’t indicate that one is binary.

The questions I ask
  • What should the third gender option on forms be called in the UK? – Still no consensus in that area. Over two thirds of us are comfortable being described as nonbinary, but that leaves a significant third of us who aren’t.
  • Is there a standard neutral title in the UK yet? – Not yet. Mx gains popularity year on year, and is consistently far more popular than all other titles, but a third of nonbinary people want no title at all. It’s really important that activists campaigning for greater acceptance of gender diversity remember to fight for titles to be optional, too.
  • Is there a pronoun that every nonbinary person in the UK is happy with? – As with last year, still no. The closest we have to a standard is singular they, with 4 in 5 people – and so I will use the data to campaign for journalists and anyone else with a style guide to allow it. But still 1 in 5 (21%) of us are not happy with singular they.
  • Are any of the neopronouns gaining ground in the UK in a way that competes with singular they? – No. Additionally, they are very difficult to count and therefore cannot be represented accurately, just because there is no consensus on spelling, form or pronunciation. This can partially be rectified by me improving my survey software, but users of these neopronouns will probably not reach consensus for many years – language and especially pronouns can be very slow to settle and gain ground. Singular they and she are getting gradually more popular, but so are other less commonly used pronouns – so everyone is getting more into all pronouns generally!
What I’ll do differently next year
  • I’m going to look into paid and professional survey services. There are some questions that I would love to ask and some analysis that I would love to do that are very hard work in Google Sheets. (I do love playing in spreadsheets though.)
  • I’m also going to look into some more functional way to offer mailing lists. I think more people would be able to take part and promote if they could get an email reminder when the survey started. This year I used Google Sheets to let people ask for an email when the results are posted and when next year’s survey goes up, and I am going to be doing a LOT of copy-pasting. I’m happy to do it, but imagine if I didn’t have to! (If you want to get email notifications of anything, please do click here!)
  • I have started running social network profiles for this survey. Every year I spam all my followers with this, and no doubt some of them are kinda fed up of it. I also think that there must be people out there who wouldn’t read an email but would see a tweet or a blog post, and those people maybe don’t want my TV screencaps and waffling about autism for the 11 months of the year that I’m not hyperfocused on this survey.
Closing thoughts

You are all awesome. I love that you are all willing to trust me with this stuff, and I feel very lucky to be able to do this whole thing because I find it really fun and interesting. I learn so much every time. Thanks for another great survey experience!