Nova Scotia

N.S. has highest proportions of trans, non-binary people in Canada: census

The 2021 census was the first time Canadians had the option of indicating they were transgender or non-binary. 

Nearly 5,000 Nova Scotians identified as trans or non-binary in the 2021 census

One in 300 people in Canada aged 15 and older are transgender or non-binary, according to Statistics Canada. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Nova Scotia has the highest proportions of transgender and non-binary people than any other province or territory in the country, according to new data released by Statistics Canada. 

Of more than 30.5 million Canadians aged 15 and older surveyed on the census, about 100,000 of them identify as transgender or non-binary — about one in 300 people. 

Halifax is the second-most gender-diverse city in the country, just behind Victoria, with about 4,800 people who identify as transgender or non-binary.

The 2021 census was the first time Canadians had the option of indicating they were transgender or non-binary. 

Generation Z respondents aged 17 to 24 were seven times more likely to identify as transgender or non-binary than those born in 1945 or earlier. 

Isaac Cook is a senior inclusion consultant at Simply Good Form, a Halifax-based company that offers diversity and inclusion education for businesses, organizations and educators. 

They spoke to Jeff Douglas, host of CBC Radio's Mainstreet Halifax, about the historic data and what it means for transgender and non-binary people in Nova Scotia.

Their conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Listen to the full interview here:

Isaac Cook, a senior inclusion consultant at Simply Good Form Inc., spoke with host Jeff Douglas about the newly released Stats Canada numbers, and what they say about gender diversity in this province.

What did you think when you saw these numbers? Do they surprise you? 

It was more of a, 'Oh my goodness, there are trans and non-binary people here.' Not in a way that I'm shocked that they exist, but I'm shocked at the amount of people who opted for those options. Because historically, especially on censuses, as we know, 2021 was the first year that this was even an option. A lot of folks teeter around the idea of opting in or opting out … we don't know what we don't know, and if people don't choose to opt in, whether it's for their own safety or not, making this distinction helps change lives for the future.

So you're not surprised so much by the percentages of folks who are trans or non-binary, you're actually surprised that they checked the box?

Looking at these numbers, the number of actual transgender and non-binary individuals throughout Canada is probably much higher. As we continue to do censuses, we'll notice that it continues to rise as more individuals are becoming more comfortable in their own skin. 

About 4,800 people identify as trans or non-binary in Nova Scotia. Is that what you were expecting?

I think that was definitely the one stat that kind of took me aback, primarily because Nova Scotia is so well known for having such a strong older population. But being a trans person in Nova Scotia, the amount of people that I know here, it doesn't surprise me one bit.

I think it definitely speaks to also the need and the desire that we have here in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada in general for support for transgender and non-binary individuals. I find within Atlantic provinces, when it comes to 2SLGBTQ+ [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning] individuals, a lot of them tend to congregate toward the urban cities … because that's typically where the most resources are.

Isaac Cook is a senior inclusion consultant in Truro. (Submitted by Isaac Cook)

Why would some people not feel comfortable checking that box on the census? 

I know many folks who are transgender by legal definition, but choose not to use that term in their day-to-day life, whether it be for their own personal preference, for safety.

Making that commitment to check a box — for some folks, it might not mean anything. But for myself, I think it means the world because the more that governments are aware — educators, employers, the general population are aware — that trans people exist is so critical, especially in Nova Scotia. We have a strong habit of being like, queer people are in Toronto and Ottawa and Ontario, they're not here. But now after seeing the census, we're No. 1 in terms of population.

Gen Z people are seven times more likely to check that box, non-binary or trans, compared to people born in 1945. What does that say to you? 

I definitely think it directly speaks to our curriculum or education, how parents are raising their kids in modern day, and just how in general more comfortable people are just being their true, authentic self.

Sometimes it's difficult when gathering data to look at it in a scheme of generation. I would love it if people would re-examine it and look at it as ... what period of time people came out at. 

What has to happen with this data? 

I definitely think the biggest aspect is even outside of the health-care system … [is] for even parents, educators, employers, anyone like that, to just recognize that trans people exist here. We need to do more and put more of our time, energy and to be frank, money into funding initiatives and programs to help support the community. 

With files from Mainstreet Halifax