Gender identity

Gender identity can be confusing sometimes, but we’ve got advice and support to help you feel less alone.

What is gender identity?

When we’re born people have to record whether we’re a boy or a girl. This is usually based on looking at our sexual organs, but for some people their gender identity can be different.

Lots of things make up your gender identity, including:

  • your body and biological sex, for example your sexual organs
  • how you feel about your gender and how you identify yourself
  • your gender expression, for example how you dress or act.

Gender identity isn’t just male or female. Some people can identify as non-binary, and how people identify can change over time.

It’s okay to take your time when thinking about your gender identity, especially if you’re feeling pressured to identify as a specific gender. For many young people feeling unsure about their gender is part of growing up and can pass in time, for some these feelings continue for longer.

If you’re unsure about your gender identity, you’re struggling to cope or you want to talk about what it means to you, we’re here to help.

4 things to remember about gender identity:

  • Some people's gender identity doesn't match what's recorded at birth
  • You’re not alone, and there are ways to cope and feel comfortable with yourself
  • You have the right to be protected from discrimination and bullying based on your gender identity
  • Childline is here to support you

Expressing your gender identity

Expressing your gender can feel complicated sometimes. You might be worried about how other people will react, or not be sure what feels right for you.

There’s no right or wrong way to express your gender identity. And whether you make any changes is your choice.

Coping with gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is where someone feels a sense of unease because their gender identity and biological sex aren’t the same. This can start at any age and can affect people differently.

If you’re struggling with how you’re feeling there are ways to cope:

  • 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. Get advice on coming out.
  • Get support
    Get support from people you trust, share your experiences on our message boards or find out about groups you can join.
  • Distract yourself
    When things feel too difficult, you could listen to some music you enjoy, watch a video or play a game.
  • Let your feelings out
    Write down how you’re feeling, talk to a friend or create something with the Art box
  • Express who you are
    Whether it’s big or small, it can help to express your gender identity in a way that feels comfortable to you
  • 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

Find out more about gender dysphoria on the NHS website.

Finally found
who understands

Get support from other young people on our message boards

Having differences in sex development or being intersex

A difference in sex development is when someone is born with genes or a body that doesn’t fit with other’s assumptions of being male or female. Someone’s sex development is different from their gender identity.

Sometimes people will describe themselves as being intersex, or as having variations in sex characteristics.

If you have differences in your sex development, you might be worried about:

  • feeling self-conscious or being judged for how you look
  • getting bullied or abused
  • being unsure about your gender identity, sexuality or finding it hard to get close to people
  • getting confusing information about where or how to get support.

Whatever’s happening, you should never have to cope alone. Childline’s here to support you, and you can speak to a counsellor any time by calling for free on 0800 111, emailing us or having a 1-2-1 chat.

If you’re worried about your body or you want support, it can also help to speak to an adult you trust, visit the NHS website, or talk to your doctor.

Supporting someone else

People who support LGBTQ+ communities 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’, ‘they’, etc) try to remember them. Remember that it’s okay to ask if you can’t remember them.
  • Challenge bullying and discrimination
    Remember that you can tell an adult if someone is saying nasty or offensive things.
  • Listen
    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.
  • Help raise awareness
    If it’s safe to, tell someone if they’re being offensive or discriminatory, and get involved with helping to raise awareness of the issues people are facing.

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.