Data collection and publication - sexual orientation: guidance

Guidance for public bodies on the collection of data on sexual orientation.

Annex 2: The Office for National Statistics Sexual Identity Project

This annex on the ONS Sexual Identity Project was included in the previous version of this guidance. The ONS has since moved to a harmonised standard on sexual orientation to align with language from the Equality Act 2010.[8]

In 2006, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) initiated a project to develop and test a question to collect information on sexual orientation for use on social surveys. All the work conducted by the ONS relating to this project, including question development, testing and guidance on using the question, can be found at [Archived Content] UK Government Web Archive - The National Archives.

After initial consultation, the ONS decided to develop and test a question on self-perceived sexual identity. The ONS define sexual identity as being about who a person is, not what they do: "it is important to remember that it is not specifically about sexual behaviour or attraction, although these aspects might relate to the formation of identity" and "perhaps sharing a collective social identity with a group of other people".[9]

The ONS "deemed sexual identity the most relevant dimension of sexual orientation to investigate given its relation to experiences of disadvantage and discrimination. Testing showed that respondents were not in favour of asking about sexual behaviour in a social survey context, nor would it be appropriate in general purpose government surveys".



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