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The Census is Out: Tower Hamlets among top 10 local authorities for proportion of LGB+ residents

As the Office for National Statistics (ONS) continues to release data from the latest census, it is revealed that Tower Hamlets is among the top 10 local authorities in the UK of proportions of residents identifying as LGB+, making it East London’s borough with the highest LBG+ populations.

Of those over 16 who responded to the question, 7.17% identified as LGB+ in Tower Hamlets compared to the national average of 3.2%. Additionally, four out of the five areas measured in Bethnal Green recorded higher proportions than the Tower Hamlets’ average.

Tower Hamlets also measured 1.05% of its residents identifying with a different gender than that registered at birth, compared to a national average of 0.5%. Four out of five areas measured in Bethnal Green also recorded higher proportions than the Tower Hamlets’ average.

Bethnal Green has long been a heartland of the LGBTQ+ community in East London. From Victoria Park Pride Festival in 1995, to the opening of the LGBTQ+ pub-turned-club The Joiner’s Arms in 1997.

The neighbourhood continues to be a spatial soul of the LGBTQ+ community, home to The Queen Adelaide pub-nightclub down Hackney Road, the queer intersectional bookshop The Common Press, and the artistic and wellness events supporting the LGBTQ+ community at St Margaret’s House. 

This is the first time the census has collected data on gender identity and sexual orientation, even providing the first official data of the size of the transgender population. The ONS has said these measurements will enable better quality information for monitoring and upholding government commitments to anti-discrimination duties under the Equality Act 2010.

Several adaptations were made to the Census to cater to this data collection. During the development of both questions, it was highlighted by research participants that it could be unsafe for respondents to disclose if they identified as LGBT+. As a result, Parliament passed legislation in 2019 to enable the questions to be voluntary, unlike the rest of the census questions that are mandatory (excluding religion).

Online access for individuals to complete the Census questionnaire was provided for the first time, which the ONS acknowledged would “improve data quality or reduce the burden placed on respondents” when providing this information.

More data from the 2021 census is due to be published throughout the year.

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