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 an upsetting 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 that the sex you are assigned at birth exactly corresponds with your gender identity.

Sex means your biological identity. Conventionally, this is how doctors decide whether you’re a ‘male’ or a ‘female’ when you’re born. This is determined by your anatomy; whether you have a penis or a vagina. Not everyone is born with one or the other; some people are intersex.

Gender is a term used to talk about gender identity. Often this is dictated by societal norms; we are taught to believe that if you have a penis, then you are ‘masculine’, and men are supposed to be big and strong and never show emotion. If you have a vagina, then you’re typically viewed as ‘feminine’ and women are often assumed to be instinctively caring, wear pretty dresses and cry easily.

Obviously these generalisations are ridiculous, but a lot of people consider their gender identity to be either male or female. If the way you feel about your gender identity doesn’t seem to ‘match up’ to what you are taught to believe about your biological sex, then no wonder you feel confused.

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

The language used when talking about transgender identity can be confusing. There’s lots of misinformation out there, and sometimes there’s disagreement over what terms mean. There are also lots of offensive and transphobic terms. Here’s The Mix’s guide to what you may have heard, and what it means.

Terms to use:

Transgender: An umbrella term, used to describe someone who wants to present themselves as a different gender than their biological sex. Some trans people wish to have surgical or hormonal treatment to transition to a different gender and some don’t have any treatment at all.

Non-binary or gender fluid: Terms used to describe a spectrum of gender identities which do not conform to either masculine or feminine stereotypes and which sit outside of the gender binary.

Crossdresser/transvestite: A person who wears the clothing that is stereotypically associated with a different gender to their sex but who 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 true identity.

Intersex: Describes someone whose biological sex is not male or female – 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 reclaimed and is now used to define a cultural movement for people who feel that they do not conform to sexual and gender norms.

Offensive terms:

Tranny/gender-bender: Upsetting and offensive slang, referring to someone who has changed their sex or gender identity.

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 – e.g., having a penis and breasts at the same time.

Transsexual: A former medical (and now outdated) term, describing someone who presents their non-conforming gender identity.

Getting support if you’re trans and young

If you feel you’re trans, it can be a hugely difficult time so do 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 you can contact for help and advice.

The Queer Youth Network – online forums discussing everything LGBTQ+ 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 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 trans people feel that 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