Feeling confused about your gender
When we’re born people have to record whether we’re a boy or a girl. This is usually based on seeing whether we have male or female sex organs.
Being transgender or trans is when someone feels that their gender identity is different from the gender they were given at birth. Trans people might:
- feel like they’re in the ‘wrong body’ and that their genitals don’t match how they feel
- want to change their clothes to better match the gender they identify with
- be scared about telling people about how they feel.
Not everyone who’s trans wants to go from living as a boy to a girl (or the other way around). But some trans people might want to change things about themselves, such as how they look or parts of their body. It’s important to do what feels right for you.
Things to remember about gender identity:
- Your gender identity isn’t always the same as the gender you were given at birth
- You have the right not to be discriminated against for being transgender
- There are ways to cope if you’re struggling with your gender identity
- There are lots of ways to transition if you want to
- Childline is here to support you if you’re struggling with your feelings.
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What gender identity means
Lots of things make up your gender:
- Your body, for example you might have male or female sex organs.
- Your gender identity, how you feel about your gender.
- Your gender expression, how you show your gender, like how you dress, walk or act.
For many young people, feeling unsure about gender for a while is part of growing up. But for trans people, the feelings continue. This is known as gender dysphoria. To be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, you must feel strongly that you're not the gender you've been raised as.
Being non-binary means that you don’t identify as either male or female. Sometimes people might feel both male and female, or they might feel like they’re neither.
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Coping with gender dysphoria
Gender dysphoria is a condition where someone struggles with the difference between their gender identity and their biological sex. If you’re struggling with how you’re feeling there are ways to cope:
- Visit your doctor.
Your doctor can talk to you about ways to cope and what support is available; they might also refer you to a specialist. Find out more about visiting the doctor.
- Speak to an adult you trust.
Sharing how you feel can be scary but it can help you to build your confidence and feel more able to express your gender. Find out more about coming out about your gender.
- Distract yourself.
When things feel too difficult, you could listen to some music you enjoy, watch a video or play a game.
- Express your feelings.
Write down how you’re feeling, talk to a friend or create something with the Art box.
- Get support.
Get support from people you trust, share your experiences on our message boards or find out about groups you can join.
'Transitioning' is the journey a trans person takes from presenting themselves as the gender they were brought up as, to presenting themselves as their true gender. Transitioning is different for everyone and it’s important to focus on what you feel comfortable with.
Supporting someone with their gender identity
People who support LGBTQ+ are sometimes called ‘allies’. There are lots of ways you can support someone who’s struggling with their gender identity:
- Accept them
Accepting someone means including them and not questioning their identity, don’t ask people things that would make them uncomfortable
- Respect how they identify
If someone changes their name or their pronouns (if they want to be referred to as ‘she’, ‘he’, etc) try to remember what they are; if you’re ever not sure remember then it’s okay to ask
- Challenge bullying and discrimination
Remember that you can tell an adult if someone is saying nasty or offensive things.
Listening to a friend can be a great way to show that you care; it can help someone to cope and show that they’re not alone.
Having a friend transition can sometimes feel difficult. Remember that if you’re ever struggling with how you’re feeling you can speak to a Childline counsellor.
If you're being bullied, it's important to get support. You could tell an adult you trust. Your school should also take bullying seriously.
There are laws to protect trans people from hate crime. If you feel you're in immediate danger, call 999.
Many young trans people tell us they feel trapped, want to self-harm, or are thinking about ending their lives. If this is how you feel, you can always contact us.