Young and trans?

If you’re feeling confused about your gender, it can be an isolating time. We’re here to help you understand the different issues trans young people face and where you can go to get the support you need.

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Whatever you are, whoever you are, you'll always be you.

You may be reading this because you’re feeling confused about your gender. Maybe something doesn’t feel quite ‘right’. Or maybe you’ve been experimenting with, say, women’s clothes, but you aren’t sure what that means. Or maybe you’ve been called a word (like ‘trannie’ or ‘gender bender’) and you don’t understand what it means.

What is being trans?

Nobody fits into a nice little gender box perfectly. But, usually, being trans is when you don’t feel your ‘sex’ exactly meets your ‘gender’.

Sex means your biological identity – are you a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’? And this is usually decided by whether you have a penis or a vagina.

Gender relates more to being male or female, masculine or feminine. Often this is somewhat dictated by societal norms – so we think men are supposed to be big and strong and never cry and wear trousers, and women are supposed to wear pretty dresses and like pink and cry more and are more caring.

Obviously these generalisations are ridiculous, but most of us have a feeling or gender identity of being male or female. If your identity inside doesn’t match up to your identity outside, then no wonder you feel confused.

What do all these trans terms mean? And how do I know what I am?

The language of trans can be confusing. There’s lots of misinformation out there, sometimes disagreement over what terms mean, and lots of offensive terms. Here’s The Mix’s guide to what you may’ve heard, and what it means.

Terms to use:

Transgender: Is an umbrella term, used to describe someone who wants to present themselves as a different gender than their biological sex.

Transsexual: Is a medical term describing someone who wants to (or who already has) outwardly present their different gender. This can involve social, medical or surgical change in gender.

Crossdresser/transvestite: A person who wears the clothing of the opposite gender to their sex but doesn’t want to permanently live life as a different gender.

Gender dysphoria: This is a medical term for feeling unhappy with your current gender (masculinity/femininity) because you feel it’s in conflict with your physical sex.

Intersex: Describes someone whose physical sex is not clear – this may be due to genetic, hormonal or physical reasons e.g. having both male and female genitalia.

Queer: A lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people identify simply as queer – this used to be an offensive term but has been taken back and reclaimed.

Offensive terms:

Tranny/gender-bender – Upsetting slang to mean someone who has changed sex, in the same realms as calling someone a ‘paki’ or a ‘dyke’.

Pre-op/Post-op – Why would anyone want to be defined by their surgical status?

HeShe/Shemale/Hermaphrodite – Upsetting and outdated ways to define someone who displays the physical characteristics of both sexes – eg having a penis and breasts at the same time.

Getting support if you’re trans and young

If you feel you’re trans, it can be a hugely difficult time and make sure you seek the support you need. Trans people are at a greater risk of depression, self-harm and suicide, but there is help out there. Here are some places to try

The Queer Youth Network – online forums discussing everything LGBT related.

The Beaumont Society – offers a 24/7 information line, who can point you in the direction of the best resources for you. Their number is 01582 412220.

Mermaids – is a support group for trans people aged 19 and under. Their information line is open Monday to Saturday from 3pm til 7pm and their number is 0344 334 0550.

LGBT Youth Scotlandhelp young people in Scotland offer forums, a text service and a live chat service struggling with trans issues. They also have a great leaflet about coming out as trans.

The Mix – Our online community where you can chat anonymously to other young people about how you’re feeling on our message boards.

Supporting a trans friend

Coming out as trans is a tough time. The best support you can give is to try and be as understanding as possible. If you friend changes their name, the way they dress or even their gender, remember they’re still them. Their sense of humour and personality won’t necessarily change too.

This article has some great information about how to support a trans person in your life.

Myths about being trans

Being trans means you’re gay

Nope – being trans is an utterly separate issue. Trans people can be straight, gay, or bisexual, just like everyone else.

You choose to be trans

Most feel they have no choice, this is just the way they are.

Being trans means you’re mentally ill

There is no evidence to suggest trans people have anything wrong with their mental health and careful checks are taken out before they’re allowed to go through medical transition.

Next Steps

  • The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBT people aged 16-25-years-old who are homeless or living in a hostile environment. AKT has offices in London (call on 020 7831 6562), Manchester (0161 228 3308) and Newcastle (0191 281 0099).
  • Mermaids is a support group for trans people aged 19 and under. Call the information line on 0344 334 0550, open Monday to Saturday from 3pm - 7pm.
  • Queer Youth Network gives you the opportunity to meet and chat with other LGBT young people online.
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

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