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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been accused of folding in the face of pressure from transgender lobbyists to allow people to ‘self identify’ their sex on the upcoming census, but the government body has denied the charge.

A woman’s rights campaign group, Fair Play for Women, have launched a legal challenge at the High Court to stop the ONS from allowing people to be able to use the sex listed on their birth certificate, gender recognition certificate, or passport in the March 21 census.

The change in guidance will mean that people will be able to change their sex on the census with just one note from a doctor to update their documents.

Dr Nicola Williams, of Fair Play For Women, told the Mail on Sunday: “The ONS is unlawfully messing around with the definition of sex and allowing self-identification through the back door.”

Dr Williams claimed that the LGBT activist group Stonewall had pressured civil servants into u-turning on the issue, saying: “The ONS has been captured by Stonewall. It’s a complete stitch-up.”

She said that the ONS conducted a “biased” consultation on the issue of census sex question, as the statistician organisation failed to talk with a single women’s group critical of transgender ideology while consulting 23 trans people and “trans ally groups”.

In January the head of the ONS, Professor Sir Ian Diamond said: “The question on sex is very simply your legal sex”.

However, on February 12, guidance released from the ONS on the issue told people to “use the sex recorded on one of your legal documents such as a birth certificate, gender recognition certificate, or passport.”

The change was hailed by Stonewall’s Eloise Stonborough, who said: “Trans people have always responded to the sex question in line with who they are and how they live. This year’s Census offers clear and inclusive guidance on how everyone can answer the question using legal documents.”

The Office For National Statistics claimed that the change in guidance did not come as a result of LGBT pressure, saying they came to the final decision in consultation with “a small number of researchers”.

“This is the same binary question asked since 1801 – are you female or male. This is not self-identification, which was evaluated as part of a range of options but not taken forward,” an ONS spokesman said.

“We did this because research showed this was the most help to people as they completed their Census form. It would therefore maximise response rates as well as meeting user needs,” the spokesman added.

Professor of sociology at University College London Alice Sullivan scoffed at this assertion, saying: “It’s shocking. The ONS paid more attention to lobbyists than expert social scientists.”

A member of the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel and professor at Anglia Ruskin University, Catherine Meads said that the ONS changed its guidance in order to not “p*** trans people off.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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