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Gender identity: Supporting young people

This page contains practical guidance on supporting young people with gender identity differences. For general information, please see Gender Identity

Gender identity issues do not just affect adults; children even as young as 2 years old can be diagnosed with ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘gender identity disorder’.

The Scout Association is committed to diversity and inclusion, and is open to all young people regardless of their gender identity.


“I am so delighted that our local Explorer Scout Unit had no problems accepting my daughter’s transition. This is the one of the only places where she doesn’t have to worry about how others will treat her and I can be confident that she can go to camp for a weekend and be treated as who she is. She is treated exactly as she was when she presented as a boy- nobody has blinked an eyelid- wow!”
                             Parent of young person who is transgender


There is great potential to offer young people with gender identity issues great support at a time when they may feel excluded from many of the social activities that most young people take for granted. There is also a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that transgender young people can access Scouting.

What do gender identity issues in young people look like?
The young person may have chosen to or be considering living as their true gender; being known by a different name, wearing different clothes and/or concealing parts of their body. The young person may or may not decide to have treatment or gender reassignment (see below) to change their body to match their true gender.


A young person tells the charity Mermaids about their experiences in Scouting:

"For many young people, multiple aspects of their lives are defined by gender, from how they are supposed to act, to which sports team they can play for and in some cases even which school they attend. This can leave a young trans person feeling very isolated and as though they don’t belong anywhere. For me it was Scouting that helped me through those times. Whilst my leaders weren't the most knowledgeable, they always respected my identity, supported me and never made me feel different. Scouting is open to everyone and supports everyone regardless of circumstances, and that is why I have proudly been a Scout for 14 years."


A young person is going through or considering gender reassignment / transition; what does this mean?
The young person may decide they want to either permanently alter their body or their appearance to match their true gender. Young people may be prescribed medication to stop puberty from progressing, or hormones to allow their body to develop in the way of their true gender. Later on, the young person, they might undergo surgery to change their bodies to match their true gender. This whole journey is known as gender reassignment or transition, and is usually a complex process taking place over a long period of time, varying between individuals. Be aware that this experience can be very stressful and the process might be confusing for the young person.

The young person has a right to be treated as their true gender irrespective of what stage they are at.


“I'm 16 so currently in Explorer Scouts and came out a couple of months ago and my leaders have all been nothing but supportive...and left it up to me to decide how and when to tell the other Explorers and they changed my name in all the systems they could.”
Member who is transgender


What are some of the challenges faced by young people who are transgender?
Puberty:
Puberty can be a very difficult time for all young people, but even more so for young Trans people, as their body is changing physically in a way that contradicts their true gender. Drugs may be prescribed to ‘block' puberty. Young people who are developing breasts may strap down their chest, to make it less obvious. This is called ‘binding’ and it is important to respect the young person’s decision to do this.


“There seems to be a general lack of understanding that if I say I can't do something (e.g. water sports is horrible in a binder or sleeping under the stars would require me to wear my binder for 40 hours straight) it doesn't mean that I don't want to or I'm being difficult.”
A young Member who is transgender


Prejudice and discrimination:
Unfortunately, people who are transgender often experience prejudice and discrimination, much of which is unlawful and is covered by equality legislation. Young people may have experienced or be experiencing transphobic bullying.

Emotional wellbeing:
People who are transgender are more likely to experience mental health issues or have low self esteem, often due to prejudice and discrimination they may encounter. They may not have told their families or they may be facing hostility from them.

How do I make my Section inclusive?

How can I support a young person who is transgender or questioning their gender identity?

Will I need to adapt activities?

What toilets should the young person use?


What about nights away, camps and trips?
Some options to consider, risk assess and discuss with the young person/family, are as follows:

How do I respond to any volunteers in my District/County who are not inclusive of transgender Members?
Volunteers should be reminded of their commitment to our Equal Opportunities Policy and their line manager should support them to change their practise. Often, a lack of awareness or understanding can be to blame, and some education may be needed. This could involve discussion, or it may be useful to arrange an awareness raising session in your District/County. Our national team of Specialist Advisors for Inclusion and Diversity may be able to support you with this.

It is the responsibility of all adults to act as role models by celebrating diversity and creating an environment in which all Members can enjoy safe, inclusive Scouting.

Guidance created in partnership with the charity Mermaids.


For any further questions related to Scouting, please contact diversity.inclusion@scouts.org.uk


External organisations

Mermaids: Offer information and support for young people, family members, professionals and others who are worried about a child or young person. Run by a support group of parents/carers. The website includes a free booklet on young people’s experiences (PDF).
Website: http://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk
Email: info@mermaidsuk.org.uk
Telephone: 020 8123 4819

Gender Trust: Charity supporting Trans* People and all those affected by gender identity issues.
Website: http://gendertrust.org.uk
Email: info@gendertrust.org.uk
Telephone: 01527 894 838

Cornwall Schools Transgender Guidance
Accessible via this link

Gendered Intelligence: Community interest company, focused on educating about gender diversity, within young people’s settings.
Website: http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/

Trans Media watch: Help and advice on media intrusion for trans people and groups that support them
http://www.transmediawatch.org/people.html

 

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