General information on sex, puberty, gender or sexuality
Top facts about puberty for young people.
Top facts about sexuality for young people
Ask Brook- Quick search advice and info on relationships, sex, your body, well-being and more
Mums and dads – books to help you talk to your child about puberty, sex and relationships from the Family Planning Association
Young people may question their sexuality, be attracted to someone of the same sex, opposite sex, both or sometimes feel asexual. While this is not a mental illness, it 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 this. If you are a caregiver, there. are some resources below to help you understand and support your child.
Finding Gender identity confusing? Some children or young people 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’ nor ‘girl’ fits them, or feel like they are both (often called non-binary). This is a very normal part of child development. Current gender stereotypes can feel too restrictive and of course, have been very different throughout history – it’s not so long ago that pink and high heels were only for boys and men. Other cultures in the world recognise several different genders.
Is it “just a phase”? 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, uncertainty about how they feel about their gender is something that changes over time. Some 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 to love your child no matter what and tell them so, even if you don’t yet understand and are finding it difficult to accept.
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 in. 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 talk 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 also often worry about hormone treatments and surgery but 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, to understand their options and long-term implications, 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 non -binary, gender-neutral or gender-fluid. The different terms used to describe how people feel can be confusing – see The Genderbread Person for a full set of definitions. A great resource for teachers as well
Information and advice for parents and carers
- I think my teen might be gay and I don’t know how to support them. Sensitive advice on how to talk to your teen from Relate with links to other resources.
- Supporting your child if they have come out as transgender or binary
- Supporting your LGBTQ+ child and understanding the terminology
- 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 bisexual
- How do I know if my child has gender dysphoria or is transgender? This is an excellent short article written for parents
- Supporting my child with gender identity issues This article by YoungMInds also explains more about the NHS service (Gender Identity Development Service -see below)
- LGBTQ+ leaflet for parents written by young people via Lincolnshire CAMHS
Websites, charities, helplines and more for young people and families
- What is gender identity? Definitions, advice, and how to get support and look after your mental health with tips from activists.
- What is LGBTQ+? Explanations of the terminology, advice on relationships and coming out and more
- What to do if you’re questioning your sexuality
- Help for your mental health if you are gay, lesbian, trans or bisexual
- MindLine Trans offers support to anyone with gender issues as well as family or friends which is completely confidential and open to callers nationwide. Open Mondays and Fridays only between 8 pm to midnight
- Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) This is the national NHS specialised service for children and young people, and their families, who experience difficulties in the development of their gender identity. The service works with young people and families with the aim of understanding the obstacles, and coping with and reducing any distress related to this. Their website has useful information for young people, parents and professionals and also has a helpline.
- Gendered Intelligence A charity specialising in supporting ages 8-25 years, including support for parents/carers and professionals. They have a guide for parents and family members of trans people e in the UK.
- Coming out and my mental health (a blog)
- Mermaids Individual and family support for young people with gender identity issues
- Stonewall LGBTQ+ information including support and advice on coming out
- It’s pronounced metrosexual’ Comedy show and online resource about snap judgments, identity, and oppression
- Depend Free, confidential, non-judgemental advice, information and support to family members and friends of transsexual people There are a couple of good articles written by parents about how they felt when their child told them they were transgender.
- Gires Gender Identity Research and Education Society
- Genderqueer and Non-Binary Identities Useful articles and info on being genderqueer
Books and films
- Queer Books for teens A whole website dedicated to young adult books including comics and graphic novels
- Heartstopper A series of graphic novels and now a Netflix series too about the experience of being gay in a boy’s school, about friendship, love and mental illness. Beautiful, gentle and suitable from 12+
- ‘Transmission: My Quest to a Beard’ by Alex Bertie. Best for 15 + with a section written by Alex’s mum. Alex is a transgender man who was born a girl and has described the journey, and the impact on his friends and family and has some good advice on how to support your child if they are getting to grips with their gender identity. Alex’s mum describes her own journey and feelings, how she initially struggled to use his new name and the male pronoun and how she learned to accept and support Alex.
- This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson. Fairly explicit, funny, honest discussion about what it is like to grow up LGBT by a former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed author including testimonials from people across the gender and sexual spectrums
- The Trans Teen Survival Guide highly rated by professionals, parents and young people and described as ‘friendly and funny’.
- A Book for Parents of Gay Kids by Owens-Reid and Russo in question-and-answer format with personal stories from a range of different families.
- The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson.A novel about David who wants to be a girl- beautifully written, both sad and funny.
“To parents who may have a transgender child” (USA)