Gender Identity 

Gender Identity 

What is it and where are the services? 

Within the field of Child Sexual Exploitation, the community under the heading LGBT or LGBTQ are usually identified as having particular or increased risk of grooming and vulnerability. But of course, each of these letters represent a different group of children and young people and the abbreviation contains groups under sexual primacy (LGB) and groups where the focus is on gender identity (TQ). This is because these are groups who may face challenges based on the hetero-normative bias in many areas of life or within particular communities. It may also be true that for some children during their development have confusion around their sexual primacy as well as their gender identity. It is certain that many children use websites to explore these issues in private before disclosing to adults, and communicate on social media to experience shared support. This can provide a place of safety as long as the child is well versed in internet safety, but is also an area of risk to predatory behaviour. (one young person whom I asked described none of the sites he was using as safe and said “You just have to be savvy”.  

Gender Identity Services in the NHS have seen a huge increase in referrals of children and young people. Whilst the increase has mostly been children who are born as females identifying as male, children who are transitioning to female are still recognised as of particular risk in relation to assault. The reason for the increase is not fully understood but it is recognized that we are in an era where there is a more open debate and presence within the media and this may well have been driven by social media. However the challenges for children who require or are exploring transitioning are considerable and levels of self-harm are high. 

Professionals can find the language itself a challenge with multiple terminology that may be unfamiliar. The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in London have a dedicated Gender Identity Service with a very useful website for professionals and families alike. It contains advise on all aspects of language and understanding as well as service considerations. There are Tools for Schools as well.This can be accessed at www.gids.nhs.uk . In particular Sam Killerman’s Genderbread Person and his Ted talk is a great way to engage with the issues of Gender and Sexual preferences. These can be accessed at Understanding the Complexities of Gender: Sam Killerman at Ted Talks on YouTube, and www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com  

Ray Mc Morrow (NWG Health Lead) – ray@nwgnetwork.org