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Canada is the first country to provide census data on transgender and non-binary people

Prior to the 2021 Census, some individuals indicated that they were not able to see themselves in the two responses of male or female on the existing sex question in the census.

Following extensive consultation and countrywide engagement with the Canadian population, the census evolved—as it has for more than a century—to reflect societal changes, adding new content on gender in 2021.

Beginning in 2021, the precision of “at birth” was added to the sex question on the census questionnaire, and a new question on gender was included. As a result, the historical continuity of information on sex was maintained while allowing all cisgender, transgender and non-binary individuals to report their gender. This addressed an important information gap on gender diversity (see Filling the gaps: Information on gender in the 2021 Census and 2021 Census: Sex at birth and gender—the whole picture).

For many people, their gender corresponds to their sex at birth (cisgender men and cisgender women). For some, these do not align (transgender men and transgender women) or their gender is not exclusively “man” or “woman” (non-binary people).

The strength of the census is to provide reliable data for local communities throughout the country and for smaller populations such as the transgender and non-binary populations. Statistics Canada always protects privacy and confidentiality of respondents when disseminating detailed data.

These modifications reflect today’s reality in terms of the evolving acceptance and understanding of gender and sexual diversity and an emerging social and legislative recognition of transgender, non-binary and LGBTQ2+ people in general, that is, people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit, or who use other terms related to gender or sexual diversity. In 2017, the Canadian government amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Criminal Code to protect individuals from discrimination and hate crimes based on gender identity and expression.

These data can be used by public decision makers, employers, and providers of health care, education, justice, and other services to better meet the needs of all men and women—including transgender men and women—and non-binary people in their communities.

Highlights

The 2021 Census of Population included for the first time a question on gender and the precision of “at birth” on the sex question, allowing all cisgender, transgender and non-binary individuals to report their gender.

Canada is the first country to collect and publish data on gender diversity from a national census.

Of the nearly 30.5 million people in Canada aged 15 and older living in a private household in May 2021, 100,815 were transgender (59,460) or non-binary (41,355), accounting for 0.33% of the population in this age group.

The proportions of transgender and non-binary people were three to seven times higher for Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2006, 0.79%) and millennials (born between 1981 and 1996, 0.51%) than for Generation X (born between 1966 and 1980, 0.19%), baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1965, 0.15%) and the Interwar and Greatest Generations (born in 1945 or earlier, 0.12%).

Over time, the acceptance and understanding of gender and sexual diversity has evolved. Further, there has been social and legislative recognition of transgender, non-binary and LGBTQ2+ people in general. Younger generations may be more comfortable reporting their gender identity than older generations.

In May 2021, the Canadian population aged 15 and older had an average age of 48.0 years. In comparison, the transgender population had an average age of 39.4 years, while the non-binary population had an average age of 30.4 years.

Just under 1 in 100 young adults aged 20 to 24 were non-binary or transgender (0.85%).

Nova Scotia (0.48%), Yukon (0.47%) and British Columbia (0.44%) had the highest proportions of transgender and non-binary people aged 15 and older among provinces and territories.

Victoria (0.75%), Halifax (0.66%) and Fredericton (0.60%) had the most gender diversity among Canadian large urban centres.

Just over half of non-binary people aged 15 and older (52.7%) lived in one of Canada’s six largest urban centres: Toronto (15.3%), Montréal (11.0%), Vancouver (10.8%), Ottawa–Gatineau (5.6%), Edmonton (5.4%) and Calgary (4.5%).

Nearly 1 in 6 non-binary people aged 15 and older (15.5%) lived in the downtown core of a large urban centre. This share was more than twice that of transgender people (7.0%) and over three times higher than that of cisgender people (4.7%).

One in 300 people in Canada aged 15 and older are transgender or non-binary

In May 2021, there were 59,460 people in Canada aged 15 and older living in a private household who were transgender (0.19%) and 41,355 who were non-binary (0.14%). Together, they represented 1 in 300 people, or 0.33% of the population aged 15 and older.

Counting transgender people in the 2021 Census and data comparability

Canada is the first country to collect and publish data on gender diversity from a national census. While Canada’s census data and surveys from other countries are not strictly comparable, they provide valuable insight into gender diversity globally.

In Canada, 0.2% of the population aged 18 and older was transgender in 2021. Belgium (0.5% among people aged 18 to 75 in 2021) and New Zealand (0.5% among people aged 18 and older in 2020) have also published representative survey-based data on their transgender populations.

Other countries have published 2021 data on transgender people using crowdsourcing and non-representative surveys, including Ireland (0.6% among people aged 18 and older), England and Wales (0.6% among people aged 16 and older), and the United States (0.8% among people aged 18 and older).

Among the 59,460 transgender people, there were more transgender women (31,555) than transgender men (27,905).

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