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'Rectifying the historic wrong': LGBT advocates wanted sexual orientation included on the next Census

Scotland’s census will give individuals up to 21 options under this category including skolisexual and demiromantic.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

GROUPS AND ADVOCATES for the LGBT+ community requested an option to address sexual orientation and gender identity on the Census 2021 in order to “provide an honest view of Irish society” and rectify a “historic wrong”. 

In 2017, the Government launched a public consultation to decide what should or should not be included on the Census 2021 survey. The final draft was signed off on earlier this year and includes new questions around childcare, household smoke alarms, and access to the internet. 

But during the public consultation, questions were raised around whether a possible sexual orientation question would be included, a question which appears on the national Census of other European countries.

At present the current Irish Census asks ‘what is your sex?’ with an option for ‘male’ and ‘female’ available in response. 

The CSO has decided that a question on sexual orientation will not appear on Census 2021 in Ireland. A Census spokesperson said it would be considered again ahead of the 2026 Census in seven years’ time. 

Last month, Scotland announced it was planning to include sexual orientation on its 2021 Census with a question including four options: heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, and other. 

Under the ‘other’ category, the Census – which is carried out online – will offer further categories including options like scolisexual, demiromantic, gynephilic, and polysexual. 

While these options were not mentioned in submissions for the Irish Census, a number of issues were raised about recognition and visibility of LGBT people in Ireland. 

‘Invisibility’

One submission from a member of the public and seen by TheJournal.ie under Freedom of Information suggested it would be an “invaluable resource” and would act as a way of “rectifying” issues around the treatment of the LGBT community in Ireland. 

“I was disappointed that no attempt was made to determine the sexual orientation of respondents to the 2016 Census,” they said. 

“The LGBTQ community continues to deal with issues relating to invisibility and erasure from the public record and this information would contribute significantly to rectifying the historic wrong.”

Another submission from charity BeLong To suggested the public should be able to select whether they were male, female or non-binary under the heading of gender identity, as well as answering another question on sexual orientation with options including gay, straight, queer, or other. 

Issues were also raised about other vulnerable groups during the public consultation. 

Disability charity Inclusion Ireland said it would also have been of benefit to members of the public with a disability as there is a lack of data in relation to this group and sexual identity. 

“People with disabilities who identify as LGBTQI+ may experience discrimination because of their disability, their sexual or gender identity, or other parts of their identity,” it said.  

“The availability of data would help public bodies to ensure that they are complying with the Public Sector Duty and help civil society to monitor this and hold the public sector to account.”

While members of the public and organisations such as Belong To and the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) formed much of the correspondence received by the CSO, government departments also weighed in with their support. 

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs said “eight of the nine grounds for discrimination are covered by the existing Census form and sexual orientation is the only ground that is not”.

“Data on gender and sexual identity at a small area level may be useful for planning for sexual health resources. 

“We understand that the UK’s ONS are considering including a sexual and gender identity question in the 2021 Census of England and Wales. The ONS are currently conducting further research on same.”

The Department of Justice also recommended including a question on sexual orientation. 

A Census spokesperson said it is carrying out a trial involving a question on sexual orientation in the Quarterly National Household Survey, and data collected will inform discussions on the issue for future Census surveys. 

“The aim is to see how it goes with other CSO surveys with a view to maybe having a question like this in future,” they said. 

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