Information

Non-Binary Working Group - sex and gender in data subgroup minutes: October 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the subgroup on 27 October 2021.


Attendees and apologies

Attendees:

  • Dr Ben Vincent, The Open University (Chair)
  • Oceana Maund, Equality Network
  • Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans
  • Megan Snedden, Stonewall Scotland
  • Eilidh Dickson, Engender
  • Non-binary community member
  • Paul Matthews, Office of the Chief Statistician

Secretariat:

  • Paul Sloan, Equality Unit, Scottish Government

Apologies:

  • Non-binary community member

Items and actions

Sex, gender identity, trans status - data collection and publication guidance

Office of the chief statistician welcomed the opportunity to hear the groups views and feedback now that the final guidance has been published.

The group welcomed how far the final version had moved on from the draft guidance but that there is still a concern about the representation of non-binary people and that there was a need for more overall direct engagement during the process – noting that the guidance is predominately about the representation of trans people and that members that attended the engagement events felt they weren’t able to safely engage in the process. Going on to say that, while the question used in the Scottish Household Survey is not perfect, it is seen as a good placeholder and the Group hopes that this could be used until further engagement has taken place.

The group noted that it’s still remains somewhat unclear when Legal Sex and Biological Sex can be recorded, which is likely to reduce the number of non-binary people that are willing to engage. Suggesting that, clearer guidance is needed to explain that the sex question is in relation to self-ID and that comms may have a role to support in explaining this up during the implementation process.

Noting remarks made in the final guidance related to their work, the group asked for some clarity on their exact role  and what would be the best way to feed into the overall process.

While work still needed to scope out the exact detail, the office of the chief statistician informed the group that their early interpretation is that input from the Group would take place as part of a larger review. Reassuring the Group that the Chief Statistician, is open to the view that the sex question may require a third open ended option but evidence is required that this is something which is needed and that the existing set of questions is unsuitable for a non-binary person.  .

Going on to note that the guidance included mechanisms to record non-binary via the sex question in relation to trans history, as is seen in in the Census but that members are aware that this way of recording doesn’t suit all non-binary  people. Noting that people being comfortable to answer the trans status question may be impacted by a binary sex question.

The Group reflected that they were glad to see a Trans status question and that all questions were optional but would have liked to see more information regarding the appropriate use/analysis of the data – noting that although possible, the extra step of a write in question doesn’t guarantee that this data is recorded so it would be helpful to see more guidance on this point.

The Office of the chief statistician assured the group that they are keen to see the breadth of the write in responses and how we can code this.  Where there are sufficiently high numbers, public bodies will be encouraged to look at the open-ended responses and to group similar responses together, trying to avoid the issue of it becoming a third ‘in another way’ box which can also be problematic.

Going on to say that, although exact methodologies are still to be confirmed for the large household surveys, the larger sample size offered by the core questions across these three surveys may mean that we’re able to better analyse the open questions from across and that they would welcome input from the group on this if that is something that the they are happy  to be involved in - Members from Stonewall Scotland and STA indicated a willingness to be involved. In this work.

Office of the chief statistician also noted that they would welcome being provided with more evidence on why a non-binary question is needed and that additional support from the group when they approach public bodies to embed the guidance would also be appreciated if this was something the group was able to be involved in.

The Group highlighted that members are engaging in this work voluntary basis and that they believe that a lot of this would should have been carried out by the Sex and gender in data working group as part of  their original approach, going on to note the Group’s belief that bon-binary  people’s existence should be enough evidence to show that a non-binary question is needed.

The Group also noted their concern regarding how Sex and Gender have been defined and how referring to the latter in the guidance as a social construction implies that gender can be non-binary but sex cannot and that the current definition of non-binary isn’t inclusive of all non-binary people or how non-binary is generally conceived. During discussions also acknowledging that the women’s sector traditionally use the term gender as a way of describing society phenomenon, separate to data collection.

The Group went on to reflect that if there are issues embedding the guidance they would be unsure on  how they can be successful in assisting this. Suggesting that, although it would be possible for the group to give indication of how to tidy up language used, the guidance would need to include a non-binary question before they would to feel comfortable formally supporting it. However, that it may be useful to have a further conversation regarding the impact of the publication of this guidance on that provided by National Organisations to Public Bodies, and how these guidance documents may relate to each other.

The Group also highlighted that they would welcome further conversation with office of the chief statistician to discuss what an interim step would look like, ensuring we are getting that we are able to captured targeted sample of non-binary people. The Group then went on to ask a series of questions to which the Office of the chief statistician gave the following responses:

Will there be an ability to pick out multiple qualifiers/identity labels that represent them in a text box?

  • yes – this is part of what we would seek to do with the open-ended responses

How long is the implementation process?

  • teams are finalising questions currently for 2022 and would need a full year of data and we do not have the ability to change the questions mid 2022 but would look at 2023 for the publication of results.  We may have access to the data from smaller surveys sooner

Will there be specific training regarding around the inclusion of the new trans questions?

  • there will be a recommendation the Office of the chief statistician from that training is provided however, this is down to the individual contractors

How will the guidance be collated?

  • this would depend on the means of data collection but the Office of the chief statistician are keen to engage with public bodies on this to ensure the guidance is accessible. However, while the Office of the chief statistician are working with the Public Bodies on this, it is down to the individual data collection organisations as to what questions will be asked

Draft recommendations 

  • more work should be done to host engagement events specifically for trans people as well as more direct engagement with academics working in this area
  • further research to help identify questions needed as well as specific guidance on how best to handle text data in a way that protects privacy while ensuring that all data that is collected is used
  • future review of the Sex, gender identity, trans status - data collection and publication guidance should include a non-binary inclusive question either via a text box or a suitable equivalent – [noting the importance of not conflating non-binary and intersex/Variations of sex characteristics]

Meeting close

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