Our advice team has put together facts and resources for kinship carers whose children may be exploring their gender or sexual identity. We understand it can be a sensitive topic, and we want to make sure you feel comfortable and equipped with enough information to help and understand your child and their feelings.
What is your sexuality or sexual orientation?
Sexuality often refers to a person’s sexual orientation or preference. Your sexual orientation is who you are emotionally, mentally, and physically attracted to. This may be same-sex (homosexual), male-female (heterosexual), bisexual (both genders), or pansexual (both genders, nonbinary people, and any other gender identity).
What is gender identity?
Firstly, it is important to remember that gender identity is different from a person’s gender at birth. It is also different from someone’s sexuality or who they may be attracted to. Gender identity is a person’s personal sense of their own gender. For example, some people may identify as a boy or a girl, however, others may feel that they do not fit into either of these terms, they may feel they fit somewhere between genders.
What is gender fluidity?
Gender fluidity is when a person moves between gender identities or expressions. Such fluidity may not be permanent.
What is non-binary?
Non-binary is where a person feels they don’t fit into either gender. They neither identify as man or woman, but somewhere in between. Additionally, some people may identify as a mix of both genders.
There are many terms that describe gender identity, it’s important not to be too hard on yourself if you are not aware of all of them. You can obtain a full list of terms and meanings here.
Whatever a young person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, whether they identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or non-binary, they should be able to have a positive experience and not feel judged or be made to feel different. The most important thing is to let the young person know that they can talk to you and can be open about how they are feeling without being judged.
Below are some tips on how you may respond to a young person disclosing their gender or sexual orientation to you.
• Recognise that this isn’t something that is going to go away, don’t ignore the matter.
• Accept that this is their decision and give them unconditional love and support.
• Let them know that you will be there for them and that you want them to be open about any feelings or decisions they wish to make.
• Take time to learn and understand gender identity and sexual orientation. There are lots of organisations you can contact for support (see list below).
• Help the young person feel accepted by using the name or pronoun that they prefer, for example, ‘he or she’, ‘they or them’, or another pronoun of choice. Also, try to use the correct term when the young person isn’t present. If you make a mistake and get it wrong, apologies and correct yourself.
• Accept that you are not to blame – many carers blame themselves and believe it’s something they have done wrong whilst raising the child they are caring for. It’s important to realise that you are in no way responsible for your loved one’s decision.
What is gender identity – a guide for parents and carers
Sexuality and Mental Health – a guide for young people
Stonewall provides information and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people. Information on confidentiality here. Specialised information for young people available here. Opening times: 9:30am – 4:30pm, Monday – Friday Tel: 0800 050 2020 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stonewall has a section on their website called ‘What’s in my area’. Here you can find local groups and organisations near you.
Mermaids is a support group for gender variant children and teenagers and their families. Their goal is to relieve the mental and emotional stress of young people under 19 who are affected by gender identity issues. Mermaids also help families and educate the public.
Tel: 0808 801 0400 (Monday to Friday, 9am–9pm)
The Mix Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them. Email support is available via their online contact form. Free 1-2-1 webchat service available. Free short-term counseling service available. Opening times: 4pm – 11pm, seven days a week Tel: 0808 808 4994
Resources of interest that cover issues relating to the abuse of young women and girls, and the experiences of transgender young people:
Butterfly – an ITV drama – embraces the story of a three-generational family and exposes the truly extraordinary demands made by everyone. Across three episodes, viewers see how they all prosper or fall as challenges unfold over time. Find out more.
SEND Support – special educational needs and disability consultant and trainer, explores how best to support trans or gender questioning autistic pupils in schools and gives advice and practical support. Find out more.
For more information, advice, and support:
Visit us at – https://kinship.org.uk/for-kinship-carers/advice-and-support/
Contact us at – kinship.org.uk/for-kinship-carers/contact-our-advice-service
Call our advice line – on 0300 123 7015