Luke's storyRead more
Alfie's storyRead more
"That year of being hormone-free made me see A LOT of things much more clearly."Read more
"Forcing yourself into a traditionally masculine role for the sake of passing can sometimes be just as constricting as dysphoria itself."Read more
"It felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I finally talked to someone who understood what I was going though."Read more
"In a way, I got exactly what everyone hopes for out of the Gender Identity Service – to find the you that fits you."Read more
"Don't give up, you'll get there in the end and you'll grow up to be the man you always knew you were and wanted to be."Read more
Why do I feel this way?
If you are asking about why you are questioning your gender or why you feel that you are transgender, then the honest answer is we do not know exactly why this happens to some people. There are lots of ideas and theories about why but when it comes to something as complicated as gender identity nothing explains things 100% for 100% of people. What we can say is that there are likely to be a lot of different factors that shape you as a person. Your biology, your personality, your life experiences and thousands of other things all add up to make you you.
Some people feel strongly that they are “born this way” when it come to their gender identity, and they might find the idea of having, for example, “a boy’s brain in a girl’s body” helpful in explaining their experience. Other people aren’t so sure. We know that how people experience and show their gender, and how people respond to gender non-conformity, is linked to the culture and the time in which they live.
As a service, we keep in mind the different ideas and theories people may have about why they feel a particular way. It’s impossible for us to have one theory as we see so many different people, with so many different experiences and hopes. In some families, different family members will each have different ways of understanding things. Rather than trying to work out who is right and who is wrong, we value all of the different ideas that you and your family might have, and will think about which ideas are going to be most helpful in supporting you.
Many young people tell us that they are less interested in why they might have a particular gender identity, and that what matters more is getting the right help or support for them and their future.
Whatever anyone thinks, we believe that you have a right to feel or identify the way you do and you have a right to be supported in this, whether this changes or stays the same.
Coping with prejudice and stigma
Although attitudes are changing, it is unfortunately still the case that some people who don’t naturally fit into society’s gender norms encounter prejudice and stigma. This can take different forms, including verbal and physical harassment in relation to gender, direct and indirect discrimination and victimisation.
Prejudice and stigma often result from a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge, or from misinformation. Many people simply do not know much about what it means to identify as gender-variant or trans. This can lead them to make assumptions and to over-generalise and say, “I’ve heard that all trans people are like *this*”. Sometimes when there are very strong stereotypes around about a particular group, those individuals can sometimes start to believe the stereotypes too. At times, this can mean that trans and gender-variant people also have thoughts or beliefs which are negative towards trans people. They can also develop very fixed ideas about how to be transgender or gender variant, as if there is only one way to do this even if this doesn’t quite feel right for them. This can then lead to people feeling ashamed about their gender identity and unhappy with themselves.
Experiencing prejudiced attitudes and behaviours from others can be extremely upsetting and sometimes frightening. It is OK to be angry when we have experienced prejudice or discrimination, but anger is most helpful when it leads us to do something useful (e.g. working out who can help us change a situation) rather than getting stuck feeling frustrated and miserable on our own. Talking to friends or family can sometimes help us get fresh ideas and come up with a plan of action for managing a situation.
Prejudice is never acceptable and is not something that you “just have to put up with” if you identify as gender-variant or trans. For more information see this introduction to The Equality Act
Understanding why things happen can make us feel more in control of the situation and give us ideas or options for how to deal with it. Some trans young people have found it useful to educate those around them. For instance, if people learn about the many ways that different societies have understood gender (which are different from our own ways of thinking), this may help them to challenge some of the assumptions they have about gender.
Puberty and the body
We recognise that puberty and the physical changes that it brings can be distressing for some people. Many, although not all, of the adolescents we see consider at some point having physical interventions (such as hormone blockers) through our service. There are also many people who choose not to have physical interventions.
Changing my name
I would like to use a different name – where do I start?
Many of the young people we see use a different name from the one they were given as a baby. There is not a right or a wrong time to try this out. However, many people do test out new names with a small circle of friends or family first, before telling others. This can help to see what it feels like being known by that name.
Sometimes it can be hard for people who have known you a long time to always remember your preferred name or pronouns. People in your family may also want to wait a little while before trying out using a new name for you. Often we find that not everyone in a family will all be at the same stage or have the same perspective – change can take time and be tricky – and we find it can be helpful to keep in mind the different points of view and try to understand where each person is coming from (even if you disagree with them!)
Can I use my preferred name at school?
In our experience, most schools are happy to use preferred names for most purposes (e.g. in the classroom). However, there may be some circumstances (e.g. for exams) where they are required to use your legal name.
Our professionals section has more information for schools.
Can I change my name legally?
It is possible to legally change a child or young person’s name by deed poll or statutory declaration. Usually this requires consent from (and agreement between) their parents, although there are legal options available in cases of dispute.
The UK government website provides more information about how to change a child’s name by deed poll:
There are many services both online and offline which offer to produce deed poll certificates for a fee – and we know the cost for these can vary hugely so it might be best to shop around if you are going to use one of these services. However, we also know that some young people we see have also used free services or templates to change their names and these have also been accepted and valid.
If you have dual nationality or are not a British citizen, please check with your country’s embassy or high commission for more details about how to legally change your name.
Can I change my passport?
You are able to change the name on your passport with proof of a legal change (e.g. deed poll or statutory declaration). You can also change the gender marker on your passport. For this, you will usually need a letter of support from your GIDS clinician(s).
As a service we have also written letters of support for children or young people who have not yet changed their name legally or their passport, in case of any questions being asked at border controls.
HM Passport Office have produced guidance for trans people who are applying for a new passport.
Can I change my birth certificate?
To change your name and gender on your birth certificate, you will first need to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. It is not possible to do this before the age of 18. If you are seen at an adult gender identity clinic, they will be able to advise you further about this process.
How do I change my name on GP Records?
There is a simple process for this, which is accepted by many government departments including the Department of Health:
- the patient tells their GP, or directly informs the CCG, that they are transitioning and that in future they would be known by their new name and gender. They can write a "statutory declaration", they may have a deed poll document, or they may simply make the request. This request should be in writing, signed by the patient
- the GP writes to the Registration Office at the CCG. The GP may write a letter of support confirming the gender role change and that this change is intended to be permanent, but this is not a requirement
- the Registration Office then writes to the Personal Demographics' Service National Back Office. The National Back Office will create a new identity with a new NHS number and requests the records held by the patient's GP. These records are then transferred to the new identity and forwarded to the GP
- on receipt, the GP surgery changes any remaining patient information including the gender marker, pronouns and names
Trans patients have a legal right to change their name and gender on their NHS records and would be able to bring a civil claim against any GP or practice which I refused to accede their request.
Reference: NHS Coventry (June 3rd 2010). Process for changing name and gender in primary care.
Finding a community
For all of us – perhaps especially so when we are feeling low, anxious or stressed – it can be very helpful to have a supportive network of people around us. Many young people who come to this service speak about the support they have gained from social networking and other online sites or resources, which have helped them talk to other trans people (see the 'Staying Safe Online' section below).
We also think it is important to make face to face connections with people in a similar situation. There may be local LGBT or other youth groups in your area, school or college – and organisations such as Gendered Intelligence hold regular meet-ups in cities around the country. If you are under our service, then we run a regular young peoples’ group that everyone can attend.
You can find out about groups by searching online, asking at your school or college or CAMHS, or speaking to your clinicians at the Tavistock Centre. You may even want to set up a group yourself!
Staying safe online
Talking to people online can be a great way to practice expressing our gender identities, whatever they might be. Many young people use online groups or forums as a place to ask questions, use names or pronouns, or share feelings that they don’t yet feel comfortable talking about face to face.
What can I do if I am feeling really low?
Many young people who question their gender identity report feelings of low mood, particularly if they are also experiencing other difficulties such as bullying, relationship issues, abuse or traumatic experiences, or feeling unsupported.
As other sections of this website mention, it is recommended that you speak to a trusted adult about how you feel – someone who can support you to seek professional help if needed. As well as family and friends, you could also speak to your GP, or a school nurse, or teacher/lecturer. Some young people will need support from mental health professionals such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
However, there are some steps that we can all take to benefit our emotional and physical health, and which can reduce the likelihood of experiencing longer periods of feeling low.
Stay Active and take part in activities you would usually enjoy. This may be socialising and connecting with people, activities outside of the house like seeing friends or going for a walk, or things inside the house like reading or watching a film. It is a good idea to have a mix of all three. Maintaining activities is important as they improve our mood by giving us a sense of achievement and enjoyment, as well as allowing us to feel socially connected to other people. These are all important elements of balanced mental wellbeing.
When we are feeling low, we often want to avoid these things,but whilst this can sometimes give short term relief it can also mean that we no longer benefit from the positives we used to get from them. It can therefore help to actively plan in activities across each week to encourage ourselves to actually do them. It may help to write them down or involve other people in supporting you to achieve these goals that you set for yourself.
It is really important to keep in a routine with attending school, college or work. Sometimes, when we are low we can predict that something will be unpleasant or harder than it is. Even if you don’t enjoy an activity, or you are having a tough time there, it still might help distract you from your worries for a while and it will mean that you don’t have to worry about catching up with work or friends later on top of your existing concerns.
Look after yourself physically
It can feel difficult to look after ourselves when we are feeling low, but not looking after our general health can in turn maintain low mood or even worsen how we feel. It therefore is really important to eat regularly and an as balanced diet as possible, to have a consistent sleep routine, and to do regular exercise. Exercise has been shown in research studies to have a significant benefit in terms of improving mood due to the endorphins that are released. If you are struggling with any of these areas, speak to your GP who should be able to advise or refer you on for additional support.
How can I cope with really difficult feelings?
Managing self-harm and suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Some young people who come to our service report difficult feelings that have become overwhelming to the extent that they self-harm or feel suicidal. If this is the case for you, it is really important not to suffer in silence. Tell a trusted adult about how you are feeling. Although it can be difficult to confide in someone about these feelings, most people find that it makes the problem seem easier to face and less scary than when they were dealing with their emotions on their own.
As mentioned in other sections of this website, your GP will be able to refer you for emotional support if this is needed, and schools/colleges also commonly have counsellors on site or can refer you to mental health services if required.
If you are already under a CAMHS team, you should get in contact with them to let them know about how you are feeling. If you are not already under CAMHS, then please contact your GP and request a referral. Local services are in the best place to you in this situation and you will need to let people know that you need their help.
In an emergency situation – for example, if you think that you might harm yourself (or another person) and feel unable to keep yourself safe – you can go to an Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) where you can access a crisis mental health assessment. If possible, it is recommended that you speak to your parent/s or another trusted adult before going to A&E, who ideally will be able to go with you to the hospital. You could also ask for an emergency appointment with your GP.