I just need some general information and advice for myself and/or my child on puberty, sex and sexuality Go straight to the Books and Websites sections below.
Finding Gender identity confusing? Some children who were registered as ‘male’ or ‘female’ when they were born, may not feel like a boy or girl when they are older. They may prefer to dress in clothes traditionally typical of the opposite gender, or feel like they are the opposite gender. Others may feel that neither being called a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ fits for them. or feel like they are a bit of both. Of course this can be a very normal part of child development but if those feelings persist into teenage years or adulthood, it may be more likely that it is more than a developmental phase.
Tell me more about gender ... For many young people, traditional gender stereotypes can feel too restrictive or they may feel more comfortable taking on a different gender from the one they were born as. Questioning one’s gender or sexuality is not a mental illness, but the experience may be tough for some young people, and they may experience anxiety, depression and even thoughts of suicide or self-harm, especially if they feel rejected by their families or bullied by their peers. Young people may feel quite unsure about their gender and sexuality and need time and acceptance while they figure it out. Others may enjoy experimenting with different identities. Fortunately, there is now a lot of really helpful advice and support for families and young people and there are helplines or online chat options if you or your child just need someone to chat to (see below). The debate around gender can be quite polarised, especially in social media, so be aware that some agencies or individuals may have strong opinions e.g about early access to hormone treatments, in both directions.
Parents of young people who are questioning their gender, often feel quite worried and may hope that it is "just a phase". Some young people may experiment with gender, or question their gender as part of working out their identity as they mature into adulthood. This is especially common in young people with autistic spectrum disorders. For many young people uncertainty about how they feel about their gender is something that changes over time . Other young people say that they have known from an early age that they felt they were "in the wrong body". The two videos below both explain that the most important thing you can do as a parent is love your child no matter what and tell them so, even if you don't yet understand and are finding it difficult to accept.
Parents also often worry about hormone treatments and surgery but can be reassured that any young person wishing to transition to another gender in this way, has to have a detailed professional assessment first which usually takes place over several months. This is to allow the young person and their family to explore more about how they feel about their gender and their identity in general and to consider other factors that may be contributing such as anxiety or low mood. In the UK, NHS waiting times for this first assessment are currently in excess of 2 years and while this can allow time for a young person to be sure about what they want, the waiting time can also be hugely difficult for them. However, not every young person who wants to transition wants or needs to have hormone treatment, and surgery is never offered for anyone under the age of 18 yrs in the UK.
Being transgender does not define what sex somebody is attracted to, e.g. someone who was male at birth but feels and wants to become female (a trans girl or woman) might be attracted to women or men. Some young people may feel they do not want to take on any specific gender role or take on different roles depending on how they feel .This is sometimes called gender-neutral or gender-fluid. The different terms used to describe how people feel can be confusing - see resources below for a full set of definitions.
Young people might also question their sexuality and be attracted to someone of the same sex, opposite sex, both or sometimes feel asexual. Again, this is not a mental illness but can be a source of anxiety and low mood, especially for those young people who feel that their friends, family, culture or religion are not accepting of gay people.
My child has told me they are gay or bisexual. Great advice and information if your child tells you they are gay, lesbian or bisexual (downloadable booklet) plus booklets for young people on how to tell family or friends they are gay or transgender.
FFLAG: Support and advice for parents of young people who are gay, lesbian, trans or bisexua
Kids on the Edge – a ground-breaking Channel 4 documentary exploring the complex issues for children and young people. Episode 1 explores the Gender Clinic
"To parents who may have a transgender child" (USA)
'Proud to call you my transgender son' TEDx talk. A very moving testament from a loving father (USA)