March 17, 2022 - 1:15pm

What is your sex? It’s a question that should be neither difficult nor controversial. Governments need to know the answer to understand the different experiences of men and women, and plan future services to improve their lives.

Sex was not arbitrarily “assigned at birth”; it certainly wasn’t assigned to us at random by statisticians. But that ludicrous suggestion has been taken seriously in Ireland, and by people who should know better. Bizarrely, the forthcoming Irish Census will allow individuals to indicate both male and female. The Irish Central Statistics Office (CSO) then explains:

For statistical analysis purposes all entries will be assigned a sex. Where this is not clearly indicated on a census form it will be assigned at random.

After apparently blaming the EU for requiring them to ask the question — and restricting the answers to male and female — the guidance notes trumpet plans to ask about gender identity in the next census.

But the census is not there to affirm anyone’s identity — or protect their feelings — it exists to monitor the experiences of men and women. In a more lucid moment, the guidance admits that:

Almost all information collected on the census form is analysed by age and sex. This information helps us to understand the changing roles of males and females in households, communities and workplaces.

That task is rather harder if the data is just made up. GIGO – garbage in, garbage out – is as true here as it is in computer science. Aggregated data will be compromised to protect the feelings of a few individuals. Maybe only a small number will take the option of ticking both boxes because they feel “uncomfortable” selecting just one. But the 390,000 self-declared “Jedi Knights” uncovered by the 2001 census in England and Wales suggests that where there is potential for mischief, and it can happen on a significant scale.

Like other institutions, the CSO appears to have been captured by an ideology that has displaced reality. Facts have been displaced by feelings, and reliable data has been superseded by the need to avoid causing discomfort and offence. The Irish are not alone — this year’s Scottish census will allow respondents to identify as male or female regardless of what is on their birth certificate.

Biology denial helps nobody but, ironically, the biggest losers may well include trans people like me. Transwomen and transmen have different needs according to our sex, as do those who identify as non-binary. How can governments hope to understand our needs if our data is among the most mangled?

The truth is that everyone has a sex, whether they like it or not. The enumerators need to know it, and we should all supply it. The answer is simple and straightforward. My sex is male and the sky does not fall down when I admit it. It is a fact of life, and it should also be a fact of the census.

Debbie Hayton is a teacher and a transgender campaigner.