Transgender identity

Transgender describes people who feel that the sex they were assigned at birth doesn't match how they feel inside. For example, someone who was born as a girl but has always felt like a boy. We're here to give you help and support if you ever need it. 

What 'transgender' means

When we're born, people decide our gender for us. This means they decide whether we're a boy or a girl. This is usually done by seeing if we have male or female sex organs.

Some people feel unhappy with the gender they're brought up as. This can include:

  • feeling that you're a boy when you've been brought up as a girl, or the other way round
  • wishing you could change your body to look more like the way you feel inside.

This is often known as being transgender. Or 'trans' for short. Lots of people feel like this. And it's not always a simple thing. So don't worry if you don't feel sure.

What Does It Mean To Be Transgender?

Trans people have the right to:

  • not be discriminated against because of their gender identity
  • use the toilet they feel comfortable using
  • wear the clothes they choose (including school uniform)
  • be called by the name they choose
  • be described by the words that they prefer (such as 'he' or 'she')
  • be allowed to marry as their true gender.

Am I transgender?

Some trans people realise they're unhappy with the gender they're being raised as when they're children. Others become aware of their feelings later on, often during puberty.

Being unsure

For many young people, feeling unsure about gender for a while is part of growing up. For trans people, the feelings continue. This is known as gender dysphoria. To be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, you must feel strongly that you're not the gender you've been raised as.

Transgender identity can mean lots of things

Not everyone who is trans wants to go from living as a girl to living as a boy (or the other way round).

You might feel like you're not a boy or a girl but somewhere in between. Or both. Or neither. This is sometimes called being gender fluid, non-binary or genderqueer.

How you look

Some trans people decide to change their appearance to look like the gender they feel inside. This could start with changing a hairstyle, dressing differently or wearing make-up. But not everyone does this. It's important to do what feels right for you.

Trans vs gay

Being trans isn't the same as being gay. Gender is different to sexual orientation. Your gender identity is about whether you feel male, female, somewhere in between or neither. Your sexual orientation is about who you're attracted to.

Drag vs Gender

Trans vs drag or cross dressing

Being trans is not the same as being a drag queen or someone who cross-dresses. The main differences are:

  • a drag queen or king is someone who dresses as another gender for performance or fun, often in an exaggerated way
  • cross-dressing is when a man or woman wears clothes people usually expect another gender to wear. For example, a man wearing women's clothes.

A trans person is not 'dressing up' as another gender or cross-dressing. They're expressing their true gender.

Coming out as transgender

'Coming out' as trans means telling people you're transgender. Only you can decide when the right time is to tell someone how you feel about your gender.

You might feel anxious about:

  • how they'll react
  • whether they'll understand and support you
  • whether you'll be safe or be bullied
  • what your rights are.

It may be a shock to some people you tell. They may not know anyone else who is trans. And they might not know what to say. They may also have some wrong ideas about what being trans is like. None of this is your fault.

It can help to get support from an adult you trust. You could try having a conversation about trans people to test their reactions. This can help you decide if they're a good person to come out to. You can also talk to your doctor without a parent in the room and ask them not to discuss what you say with anyone else.

If you want to talk through what you might say, you can always practise with a Childline counsellor.

Some trans people keep quiet about their feelings while they live with their families because they're worried about coming out. If this is your situation, it's important you have someone who can support you while you work out your future options. You can contact the Albert Kennedy Trust if you feel unsafe at home.

Trans puberty myths

Watch: Trans identity

Support with transitioning

'Transition' is the journey a trans person takes from presenting themselves as the gender they were brought up as, to presenting themselves as their true gender.

Often you might start with changing:

  • your name
  • how you dress
  • the pronouns you use (words like 'he', 'she' and 'they').

These changes are sometimes known as 'social transition'.

Some trans people keep quiet about their feelings while they live with their families because they're worried about coming out. If this is your situation, it's important you have someone who can support you while you work out your future options. You can contact the Albert Kennedy Trust if you feel unsafe at home.

Many trans people go to see a doctor to talk about how they feel and go through the options for the future. In some cases, young trans people can get medicines to slow down the body changes of puberty until they're sure of their feelings.

When you're ready – and your doctor agrees – you can be given hormone medicines to change your body. Usually, this happens after counselling to make sure you're certain about it.

Realising you want to transition can be confusing and stressful. You might be worried about telling your family or friends. You're not alone, though – we're here for you at any time. You can talk to a counsellor on the phone free on 0800 1111, send an email or have a 1-2-1 chat online.

Gendered Intelligence organises youth groups in London, Leeds and Bristol for trans people aged 13 to 25.

Dealing with transphobia and bullying

No one has the right to bully you, abuse you, put you down or discriminate against you. But sadly, many trans people experience this. It's known as transphobia. It's never your fault. And it's never okay.

Being bullied or discriminated against because of your gender identity is illegal. The Gender Recognition Act is a law that protects the rights of trans people. The law states that people must not be discriminated against because of their gender identity.

Transphobic behaviour can include:

  • refusing to accept you as the gender you feel you truly are
  • physically harming or threatening you in any way, including touching that you don't want. This is hate crime and abuse. You can use True Vision's reporting form to let the police know
  • asking you sexual questions or touching you inappropriately. This is sexual harassment and is also illegal
  • making jokes about trans people or calling you names
  • ignoring you or making you feel shut out.

Get support

If you're being bullied, it's important to get support. You could tell an adult you trust. Your school should also take bullying seriously.

There are laws to protect trans people from hate crime. If you feel you're in immediate danger, call 999.

Many young trans people tell us they feel trapped, want to self-harm, or are thinking about ending their lives. If this is how you feel, you can always contact us.