Someone completing the census on their mobile phone.
Someone completing the census on their mobile phone.

Recent months have witnessed an acceleration in attempts to erase trans people from data collection activities in the UK, the last-minute change to guidance for the sex question in the English and Welsh census is only the latest example of data vandalism.

On 12 February 2021 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) issued new guidance on how to answer the question ‘What is your sex?’ in the 2021 English and Welsh census. …


The Forth Rail Bridge and a rainbow.
The Forth Rail Bridge and a rainbow.

For the first time, Scotland’s 2022 census will ask a question about sexual orientation. A new article in the Journal of Gender Studies examines correspondence between National Records of Scotland, the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee and campaign groups to describe decisions made, the uneasy relationship between queer identities and state data collection practices, and the question of who is counted when we count LGBTQ people.

In particular, my engagement in the design process enabled me to critically examine decisions made about the exclusion of non-binary identities and the use of predictive text technology.

In the…


Colourful data lines.
Colourful data lines.

New Zealand’s official data agency has proposed a ‘gender by default’ approach to how the government collects data about sex and gender.

This proposal is part of a consultation being conducted by Stats NZ, New Zealand’s national statistical organisation and the body responsible for the country’s 2023 census. The consultation describes ‘gender by default’ as an ‘approach that defaults to the collection of gender data as opposed to sex at birth’ and that ‘collection of sex at birth information should be viewed as an exception where there is a specific need’.

As I have noted in previous blog posts about…


Sign with the word ‘QUEER’.
Sign with the word ‘QUEER’.

As with all other identity characteristics, how people understand and define their sexual orientation is not always simple. The dimensions that contribute to sexual orientation are multiple and, for many people, do not neatly align. They can change over time, differ according to context and intersect with other identity characteristics such as sex, gender and trans identity/history. Finding a census question that can capture this complexity was always going to be difficult.

Even against the backdrop of a global pandemic, preparations for Scotland’s 2021 census continue. On 21 March 2021, the Scottish government will ask everyone aged 16 and over…


LGBTQ protest, with the banner ‘Solidarity’.
LGBTQ protest, with the banner ‘Solidarity’.

On 1 April 2020, against the backdrop of an international public health emergency, the United States of America conducted its 24th national census — one of the largest data collection exercises in history.

The US census did not ask a question about sexual orientation but it did frame queer identities in a way that endorses a potentially dangerous precedent for future data collection exercises.

The census — which is conducted every ten years — asked only nine questions per respondent, with questions about the identity characteristics of sex, age and race. …


Woman wearing face mask
Woman wearing face mask

Crisis breeds opportunity. Yet at the time of a public health emergency there is the risk that discussions about equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) might seem secondary or something to add to the agenda once the crisis has passed. However, while nobody would wish to distract from the main focus of fighting the pandemic, we need to use the present moment to also imagine the society we want to inhabit once the dust has settled.

Things we were told were impossible have become possible. In a matter of days, the UK government has guaranteed up to 80% of employees’ salaries


Students supporting the UCU strike in Leeds in 2018.
Students supporting the UCU strike in Leeds in 2018.

This week staff at 60 UK higher education institutions are on strike. Industrial action is in response to two related disputes: changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the pension plan for most university staff, and addressing pay inequality in the sector.

Whereas industrial action in 2018 focused on the issue of pensions, the latest round of action has expanded to address issues related to pay, inequality, precarious contracts and workload.

University and College Union have explicitly noted the gender pay gap in higher education as a key factor behind their call for industrial action.

The gender pay gap is the…


For the vast majority of the population, completing the voluntary sexual orientation question in Scotland’s 2021 census will be a breeze. A quick tick in the ‘Straight/Heterosexual’ box before moving on to the next question.

Many who describe themselves as ‘Straight/Heterosexual’ will not be conscious of their sexual orientation nor have faced discrimination, marginalisation or abuse because of this element of their identity. …


Red lips and white teeth.
Red lips and white teeth.

My permission for indifference is over. Until recently, I held the view that people had the right to remain separate from society’s inequalities. As long as they weren’t directly causing harm to others, it was their choice to stay out of issues that didn’t affect them. ‘Live and let live’, I thought. However, my perception of society has changed a great deal in the past three years. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that ‘staying out of politics’ was not a neutral position.

These questions about indifference emerged through my work with equality, diversity and…


I was sat in a police interview room in Edinburgh. My call to 101 that morning to report transphobic graffiti on the university campus had escalated quickly. By mid-afternoon, I was scrolling-through photographs on my phone with a police officer and signing a witness statement.

A few months later and I was registering an official complaint against a university for a breach of its own equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policies. Reading and re-reading official documents to pinpoint exactly where the institution’s actions had departed from their stated policies.

I engaged with these processes aware that they were unlikely to…

Dr Kevin Guyan

Equality, diversity + inclusion researcher based in Edinburgh, Scotland | @kevin_guyan | kevinguyan.com

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