Gender identity survey questions

The University seeks to measure its progress in creating an inclusive culture for trans people. For this reason it may ask questions about the experience of trans people or awareness of transgender issues through surveys and questionnaires. Reporting data on gender identity should be done at University level only due to the low numbers involved.

On many forms, questions are asked about gender as if it is a neutral piece of information, which is already public. However for someone who is transitioning, or who is non-binary, it may be very sensitive information, especially if there is a difference between their apparent gender and the gender on University records.   It is recommended that current forms are reviewed to ensure that questions about gender are necessary, and are worded appropriately.

Think carefully about which questions you need to ask, how you ask them and how responses are reported, to prevent trans respondents being identified where they do not wish to be. 

Consider your reasons for asking questions about sex/gender in any survey or form, since such questions may be problematic for people with a trans identity.  There may be a justifiable need to ask questions about gender, such as for monitoring take-up of services.

National guidance on data collection in higher education has changed, with a move towards recognising a gender spectrum by offering multiple options of ‘male’, ‘female’ , 'non-binary' or ‘other’. It is also good practice to offer a ‘prefer not to say’ option, and you may wish to allow individuals to specify their gender identity in a free text field if they select 'other'. 

Survey information about gender identity history should only be collected if the organisation has an objectively justifiable reason for requiring this data and is able to store and report on it securely.  Advice is available from the Equality and Diversity Unit.

Trans people may describe their gender identity in different ways, and may prefer not to use the word ‘trans’. Often, people who have transitioned identify in their affirmed gender and not as trans.

The wording recommended by HESA is below.  Such questions should never be compulsory.

‘Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?'

Yes/no/prefer not to say


Alternative questions might include:

‘Do you identify as trans or do you have a trans history?’

Yes/no/prefer not to say

‘Do you live and work/study in a gender role different from your sex as registered at birth?’

Yes/no/prefer not to say

Including ‘trans’ as a gender option is totally unacceptable even when well-meant, as it assumes e.g. that trans women are not women, and that trans men are not men. ‘Trans’ in itself is not a gender. (Student)