In a number of ways it is becoming apparent that many more people than identified so far have some discomfort or unease about the gender they were assigned at birth, and at least some “gender variant” self-identification. The Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) in the UK has done some excellent work in this field. Based on a period of study, the results of which were published in 2009 and 2011 (Reed et al, 2009; GIRES, 2009 and 2011), they give a very broad estimate that perhaps 1% of the UK population may be “experiencing some degree of gender variance,” of which they think perhaps 0.2% may “at some stage undergo transition.” That would leave four times as many non-transitioning gender-variant or non-conforming people as there are people who are transgender/transsexual in the usual more restricted sense of the words. 

Of these people, a good proportion can probably best be described as “non-binary” – whether or not they would like to use this word to describe themselves. Some good recent articles about non-binary gender are Barker and Richards (2015), Richards et al. (2016) and Stewart (2017). 

It may be useful here to add a distinction between self-experience and identity. For instance, in a recent study in Israel (Joel et al., 2013: 20), it was found that “a large proportion of ‘normative’ [essentially, non-queer] [people] experience themselves in ways that transcend the either/ or logic of the gender binary system.” While being in most ways “registered” as having a clear male or female identity, more than a third of the people studied in this research at times experienced their gender as different from their official gender identity. 

Indeed, simply based on personal experience, amongst students at secondary schools and universities, and amongst younger people in general, there is a rapidly expanding sense that gender is more fluid than it was ever thought to be, and either that gender of self and others does not matter that much, or that it is seen as natural that a person’s sense of their gender fluctuates and/or is stronger at some times than at other times. 

My experience is that a substantial number of contemporary people, when given space and a safe listening ear, will be reflective and thoughtful about their self-perception of their relationship to themselves and others as gendered. And many will have some variation, changes, wobbles and idiosyncrasies when they reflect on that. It feels more like in a range of 10 to 25 % to me personally, than 1% – but one is very influenced of course by the clients one attracts. Just working with the GIRES data, there clearly are many more people who have a “trans” element in their gender make-up than who want to transition. Let us think about that some more.