It is important to note that sexuality and gender identity are NOT mental health issues.
However, some young people may struggle before accepting their sexuality and gender identity, and may need extra support during this time.
What is sexuality?
Sexuality and sexual orientation is about who someone feels physically and emotionally attracted to. This can be romantic or emotional attraction, or both.
As children and young people grow up it’s natural for them develop and express their sexuality in healthy ways. For example, older teenagers might start dating or having relationships, while younger children might show curiosity about sex or the changes that happen during puberty. Many young people also feel unsure about their sexuality or who they’re attracted to, or find that their sexuality changes over time.
There are lots of different types of sexuality or sexual orientation, and young people may use different terms to describe how they feel. LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and more.
What is gender identity?
Gender identity is a way to describe how someone feels about their gender. For example, some people may identify as a boy or a girl, while others may find neither of these terms feel right for them, and identify as neither or somewhere in the middle (non-binary). Although people often confuse them, gender identity is different from someone’s biological sex or assigned gender at birth and from sexuality or who someone’s attracted to.
While many people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, for others gender is more of a spectrum, with lots of different possible identities. Gender identity is a personal feeling, and a child or young person will be the best person to know what matches how they feel. Children and young people can also question or feel unsure about their gender identity, or find that their gender identity changes over time. This is sometimes called ‘gender fluid’.
Gender expression is how someone chooses to express their gender identity. This could be through the way they dress, speak or act. For example, by wearing dresses or choosing to shave. How someone looks or dresses does not always reflect their gender identity. Children and young people will feel comfortable expressing their gender identity at different ages and in different ways.
Click the link for a glossary of LGBTQ+ terms: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/lgbtq/education/glossary/
What can help?
If you are struggling to cope with thoughts and feelings about your sexuality and gender identity, talking about it can be really helpful and is often the first step to feeling better. Speak to a trusted friend or family member, or contact our Therapy Service on email@example.com to talk to one of our therapeutic counsellors. They can offer one-off drop-in appointments or weekly counselling sessions.
Supporting your child with their sexuality and gender identity
Click on the links to find out how you can support your child.