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Understanding gender issues can feel daunting but I love helping people to gain the confidence and understanding they need.

Lui Asquith, Mermaids trainer/Head of Policy & Legal

What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is the description used for the discomfort experienced by someone whose gender does not match the one they were given at birth.

After all, our gender is decided by other people when we’re born, based on the way our body looks. So, a child born with male genitalia, for instance, will be assigned as ‘male’ but may grow up to be a transgender woman or a number of gender identities.

This can cause considerable distress, especially for young people around the time of puberty when the reality of bodily changes becomes confusing, immediate and visible.

A growing number of young people are presenting with gender identification that is neither male or female or a combination of both and this is often referred to as non-binary or genderfluid but there are many other definitions that may also be used.

Supporting a transgender child as a teacher

You may encounter children or young people who are struggling with their gender identity and this can be difficult and confusing at first. That’s perfectly understandable and it’s great that you’ve come to find out more.

Under the equality act 2010 any young person has a right to be addressed as their true gender, regardless of any diagnosis or medical intervention and irrespective of age. We have a number of resources that identify the responsibility you have as a school towards these pupils and your duty of care.

Mermaids and other partner organisations can assist your school to assist with a child or young person’s transition, provide training and lesson plans to make sure the best outcome is achieved for all involved. The most important thing is that the young person is respected and their views listened to.

Supporting a transgender child as a GP

As a GP, you may never have come across a transgender child or young person before, but the most important thing to bear in mind is that they need support and referral to a specialist NHS service.

Even if a child is very young, that doesn’t mean their gender issues should ignored or dismissed. For people under 16 years of age, a referral to The Tavistock and Portman is appropriate. You may also wish to refer to CAMHS but it’s not necessary to go through CAMHS as GPs can refer directly.

If the young person is 16 or over then a referral to adult services may be more appropriate as many will see young people of 17 or over and waiting lists are in excess of 22 months.

Different clinics will have different timeframes for their waiting lists, but are always subject to change. If you need any assistance then please contact Mermaids and we can signpost you to other organisations. NHS guidelines can be found here.

For Scottish nationals, a referral to The Sandyford Clinic is usually required.

Supporting a trans* child as a social worker

A child’s gender expression being supported by a parent is not a matter for child protection.

Supporting children and young people to live as their affirmed gender is very important to nurture self esteem and self confidence. In some cases a child’s gender expression may change but allowing them freedom of expression is vital to maintaining good mental health.

If you would like any information or support when dealing with a family or child with gender issues then please contact Mermaids. We have a number or resources and can give you information and signpost to other agencies.

What professionals say

I’m a psychotherapist and I’ve been working with a transmale teenage client for 3 months.  The conversation with Mermaids was such a boost to his self-confidence.

Setting up a time to speak to the volunteer was easy, and they called us back at a time that suited my clients session.

I would recommend this service for anyone who is worried about their sexual/gender identity, as the service left both my client and myself with a huge sense of hope, and that this new journey was ‘doable’ 

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