Gender of person

Status: This standard was approved as a departmental standard on October 1, 2021.


Gender refers to an individual's personal and social identity as a man, woman or non-binary person (a person who is not exclusively a man or a woman).

Gender includes the following concepts:

- gender identity, which refers to the gender that a person feels internally and individually;

- gender expression, which refers to the way a person presents their gender, regardless of their gender identity, through body language, aesthetic choices or accessories (e.g., clothes, hairstyle and makeup), which may have traditionally been associated with a specific gender.

A person's gender may differ from their sex at birth, and from what is indicated on their current identification or legal documents such as their birth certificate, passport or driver's licence. A person's gender may change over time.

Some people may not identify with a specific gender.

Person refers to an individual and is the unit of analysis for most social statistics programs.


Sex at birth and gender refer to two different concepts but are interrelated. While sex at birth is primarily understood in terms of physical and biological features such as chromosomes, genitals and hormones, gender is a multidimensional concept that is influenced by several additional factors, including cultural and behavioural norms, and self-identity.

Caution should be exercised when comparing counts for the sex at birth of person variable with counts for the gender of person variable. For most people, their sex at birth corresponds to their gender. However, some people's gender may be different from their sex at birth. For example, in a given population the group of persons of female sex does not necessarily correspond to the group of persons of female gender, although the two groups are generally very similar given the relatively small size of the transgender and non-binary populations.

The concept of gender is also different from that of sexual orientation, which is an umbrella term that includes a person's sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual behaviour.

Conceptions of gender vary between cultures, regions and countries. This concept is strongly affected by ongoing social change and, as a result, is constantly evolving.

The variable 'gender of person' is expected to be used by default in most social statistics programs at Statistics Canada in accordance with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's "Policy Direction to Modernize the Government of Canada's Sex and Gender Information Practices" (2018).

The variable 'sex at birth of person' can be used where information on sex at birth is needed, for example, for measuring some demographic and health indicators. It can be used in conjunction with the variable 'gender of person' to estimate the transgender population. These two variables can also be used, together with the variable 'sexual orientation of person', to estimate the gender and sexual diversity populations, which are often represented by the LGBTQ2+ acronym (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, Two-Spirit or another identity of gender or sexual diversity).

In statistical programs, gender may be reported in terms of a person's gender identity or expression, as well as how one is perceived by others, depending on whether information on gender is based on self-reported data or reported by proxy. Information on sex at birth may also be based on self-reported data or reported by proxy depending on the statistical program.

Some people may be reluctant to provide an answer to the question on gender or may give a different answer depending on the context in which it is asked or the order of the questions (for example, whether the question on sex at birth comes before or after the question on gender). The degree of privacy, safety and perceived relevance for collecting this information may impact how a person responds.

The gender question may be asked for persons of any age, including children aged 14 and younger, depending on the survey population.

Conformity to relevant internationally recognized standards

This standard shares similarities with the definition of gender published by the Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law in the "Best Practices for Asking Questions to Identify Transgender and Other Gender Minority Respondents on Population-Based Surveys" (2014). They define gender as "a multidimensional construct that has psychological, social, and behavioral dimensions that include gender identity and gender expression."

The "Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" (2017), written by the International Commission of Jurists and supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, provides a definition of gender identity that includes gender expression:

Gender identity is understood to refer to each person's deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

This standard also shares similarities with the definitions of gender published by Statistics New Zealand in the "Statistical standard for gender, sex, and variations of sex characteristics" (2021) and by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the "Standard for Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation Variables" (2021).

Statistics New Zealand defines gender as "a person's social and personal identity as male, female, or another gender or genders that may be non-binary." The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines it as "a social and cultural concept. It is about social and cultural differences in identity, expression and experience as a man, woman or non-binary person."

This standard differs slightly from the conventional definitions of gender for statistical comparisons of the socioeconomic characteristics of men and women. International organizations, such as the Council of Europe and the World Health Organization, define gender as the socially constructed characteristics of men and women, such as expected norms, roles and behaviours.


Additional information

Information available on gender from multiple angles brought together for a better understanding of the term and to promote standard adoption and interoperability of data.


Relation to previous version

  • Gender of person October 01, 2021 to current

    This departmental standard replaces the recommended standard 'Gender of person'. The wording of the definition of gender has been modified, and certain category names and definitions in the classifications have been updated. The name of the 'Classification of cisgender, transgender and non-binary' has changed since the previous standard.

  • Gender of person January 25, 2018 to September 30, 2021

    This was the recommended standard from January 25, 2018 to September 30, 2021.

Date modified: