Census data gives clearer picture of Alberta's transgender, non-binary community

Statistics Canada released more 2021 census data Wednesday morning, relating to age, sex at birth and gender, and types of dwellings. This is the first time the census posed a question that differentiated between a person’s sex at birth versus their gender.

Data also shows Alberta is getting older; with more people 65 or older and fewer babies

A Progress Pride flag is pictured.
Alberta accounts for over 12 per cent of Canada's transgender and non-binary populations, of people aged 15 or older, according to the latest census data. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

For the first time, Alberta has a clearer picture of its gender diversity. 

Data from the 2021 census released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday morning contained details relating to age, sex at birth and gender and types of dwellings.

It's the first time the census posed a question that differentiated between a person's sex at birth versus their gender.

"It is super, super exciting," said Lindsay Peace, executive director of Skipping Stones, a Calgary-based organization that supports transgender people. "It's a really good first step in that there's some visibility now."

Tangible numbers can be referenced when lobbying for resources, such as doctors and surgeons, Peace added

"It's hard for trans folks to be the ones advocating and fighting," Peace said. "This just enables organizations like us to advocate at a higher level, [it] isn't putting the burden on trans individuals."

The data shows that among Albertans aged 15 and older, 99.63 per cent are cisgender, meaning they identify the same as their sex at birth. 

Among the remaining fraction of a per cent, 7,305 are transgender Albertans — 3,420 transgender men and 3,880 transgender women.

Another 5,170 Albertans are non-binary, meaning they may identify, for example, as gender-fluid, queer or Two-Spirit.

Alberta accounts for more than 12 per cent of Canada's transgender and non-binary populations.

Peace believes the figures are undercounted. 

There could be various reasons for that, such as safety, whether an individual has come out yet, or parents who haven't accept their child's transition and misidentified them on the questionnaire, she said.

"Certainly we know that there are so many more trans folks than any of this data will ever show," she said.

Alberta is aging

The numbers show Alberta is aging, with a massive spike in the number of people reaching retirement age, coupled with fewer newborns and young adults.

The average age of an Albertan is 39, which is 1.2 years older than it was in 2016, data shows.

Jenny Godley, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Calgary, is not surprised.

"Demographers have been predicting this for years just with our regular forecasting, because you have this baby boomer generation who are almost all retired now," Godley said.

There are 629,220 Albertans aged 65 or older, representing about 14.8 per cent of the population. The increase of about 129,000 in five years represents the highest spike of any age demographic in that period.

Most of that — about 87 per cent — was driven by a large number of Albertans who were born in the middle of the baby boom and turned 65 after 2016.

Statistics suggest a decrease in the number of babies born in Alberta, with the number of children aged four and under dropping by 16,300. The number of Albertans aged five to 19 is higher than it was in 2016. 

Also, there are nearly 48,600 fewer 20-somethings in Alberta, and almost 10,000 fewer people in their early 30s.

Alberta, Godley said, is at the point where it has to start considering its old-age-dependency ratio — the number of seniors divided by the number of people of working age.

The province has had more children depending on the labour force than seniors, due mainly to higher fertility and many young professionals immigrating to the province for work. This has led to more social support for that demographic, such as daycare or education, she explained.

But as boomers continue aging, some resources may have to be shifted to take care of the elderly, such as housing and health-care needs, she said.

Population density going in 'right direction'

The number of total occupied private dwellings — defined as a living space with a private entrance that doesn't require someone to pass through another's living quarters — has increased by more than 118,500.

That includes 48,430 more single-family homes and 36,155 more apartments occupied by Albertans.

About two of every three of those occupied apartments are in buildings with fewer than five storeys, data shows.

This lines up with the overall apartment numbers, which show seven in 10 occupied apartments in Alberta are in buildings with fewer than five storeys.

The data is showing promising signs, said Sandeep Agrawal, professor and director of the University of Alberta's school of urban and regional planning.

"While still predominantly single-detached homes, the trend is in the right direction. Clearly, density is increasing," Agrawal said.

The province's population density is 6.7 people per square kilometre, up from 6.4 in 2016, data shows.

This is important because sprawl — rapid expansion of cities that relies on single homes and results in increased vehicle transportation — is environmentally unsustainable, he explained.

Data also shows that more people are living in row houses, and other forms of housing. Agrawal said this could lend itself to, eventually, more affordable housing options for more people.

Watch: celebrating census representation 

Census represents transgender, non-binary populations

1 year ago
Duration 4:36
Eagen Johnston speaks with CBC Edmonton News at 6 host Nancy Carlson about the latest Canadian census on the country's transgender and non-binary populations.


Nicholas Frew is a CBC Saskatchewan reporter based in Regina, who specializes in producing data-driven stories. Hailing from Newfoundland and Labrador, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has previously worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Alberta. Before joining CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. You can reach him at nick.frew@cbc.ca.