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Worried about your gender identity? Advice for teenagers

If you feel confused about your gender identity, you're not alone.

Many teenagers question their gender, whether they feel female, male, non-binary or any of the other terms used on the gender spectrum.

Some people believe that society has become more accepting of differences in gender identity.

Although most people do not question their gender, for some young people their gender identity is more complex.

You may question your gender if your interests and social life do not fit with society's expectations of the gender you were assigned at birth.

You may feel:

  • that you cannot identify with being just male or female
  • that you identify with multiple genders
  • that you have no gender (agender)
  • that you are non-binary

Or, you may have a strong sense of being a gender that is different to the sex you were assigned at birth and may feel that this has affected the way you feel about your body.

For young people who feel distressed about their gender, puberty can be a very difficult and stressful time.

Puberty is a time of physical changes to your body, such as the growth of breasts or facial hair.

Does it make me gay, lesbian or bisexual?

Gender identity and sexual orientation are separate things.

You may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, polysexual, pansexual or asexual.

Or, you may want to describe your sexuality and gender identity as being fluid – that is, they change over time.

How does gender discomfort affect you?

If you experience discomfort with your gender identity, you may feel unhappy, lonely or isolated from other teenagers.

Gender identity issues are not a mental health disorder or disease. However, if you feel as though you are struggling with your mental health you can seek help for this.

You may feel social pressure from your friends, classmates or family to behave in a certain way, or you may face bullying and harassment for being different. This may be affecting your self-esteem and performance at school.

All these difficulties can affect your emotional and psychological wellbeing. In some cases the distress can be considerable. Depression is very common among young people with gender discomfort.

Who can help me?

If you're experiencing discomfort or uncertainty about your gender identity, and it's causing you distress, it's important to talk to an adult you can trust.

You might want to talk to a parent or family member, or someone at your school or college.

Schools and colleges are now much more aware of trans and gender identity issues, are keen to support young people, and have a duty to support you.

If you do not feel able to talk to someone you already know, there are charities and local gender support groups you can talk to. Many have trained counsellors you can speak to in confidence.

You can find charities and support groups on the Tranzwiki page on the Gender Identity Research & Education website.

What help is available on the NHS?

If you have strong and continuing feelings of distress because of a mismatch between your sex assigned at birth and your gender identity, there are options available.

These include talking therapy, hormone treatment and, after 18 years of age, surgery if appropriate.

Your GP, other health professional, school or a gender support group may refer you to one of the NHS Children and Young People's Gender Services.

These NHS services specialise in helping young people with gender identity issues. They take referrals from anywhere in England.

Once you are aged 17 years, you can ask for a referral to NHS adult gender identity services if you wish to explore your gender identity further.

Page last reviewed: 12 November 2021
Next review due: 12 November 2024