We answer some of the most common questions we’re asked by young people who are questioning their gender identity, parents and the general public.
Aren’t gender and sex the same thing?
In short, no. People are labelled as a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ based on their male or female appearance at birth. Our genitals, as well as our brains have different male and female traits. The physical differences (genitals) define our sex, whereas gender identity describes the inner sense of knowing where we fit in our social lives as men, women, or somewhere in-between, or outside, these labels.
Does being trans mean you’re gay too?
Nope! Some trans people are gay, some are bi, some are straight, some are pansexual, some are asexual… You get where we’re going with this! Gender identity has nothing to do with sexuality. If a trans woman (born male) likes men, this doesn’t make them gay because they were born male, it makes them straight because they identify as female. Just because someone is trans doesn’t mean they’re gay.
What does non-binary mean?
Non-binary is a term for someone who feels their gender isn’t exclusively male or exclusively female. Some people may feel that they have both male and female elements to their gender identity and some people may feel like they have neither. Some people also use the term genderqueer to describe their gender identity, meaning their gender identity is different than the traditional male/female roles.
What’s the deal with pronouns?
Pronouns are how you refer to someone e.g. he/she/they. Typically pronouns in the English language are gendered, so people are used to saying he/him or she/her when referring to someone. Trans people will likely want to be referred with their “preferred pronouns” – the pronouns of the gender with which they identify. Some people, especially non-binary or genderqueer people, like to be referred to with gender neutral pronouns like “they”. There are also gender neutral titles, so instead of Mr or Mrs, Mx is sometimes used.
Is it just a phase?
For the vast majority of people, no it isn’t. There will always be exceptions to the rule, and a small minority of people may just be ‘experimenting’ with their gender identity but for most people who have the courage to come out as trans, it’s because that’s who they are. It’s important for trans people to be heard and believed that how they identify is their true self, so don’t ask them if it’s just a phase, this can be very upsetting.
Is taking hormones to delay puberty dangerous?
No, it’s perfectly safe and reversible, which is why it’s legal in the UK! Even though it is safe, it’s still a very important decision as you are making changes to your body. Because it’s such an important decision, young people will be referred to a gender identity clinic where professionals will talk through all the different options available.
Will everyone have surgery?
Not every trans person wants to undergo surgery and that’s doesn’t make them any less of a man or woman. Surgery is a very personal choice and some people may not want an invasive procedure and some people may just love their body the way it is. You don’t need a penis to identify as a man and you don’t need a vagina to identify as a woman.
Will I be able to have kids if I’m trans?
This is a pretty complex question so we’ll break it down into manageable chunks:
If you didn’t take puberty blockers as an adolescent are planning to transition - If you decide to transition and you didn’t take puberty options as an adolescent and you’ve not started taking hormones yet, you can bank sperm/eggs for later use either with a partner or a surrogate. If you are on hormone therapy, you can stop to start taking them to resume sperm/egg production (for banking) but this can take time, and your birth sex characteristics will start to reappear, like facial hair in transwomen and boobs in transmen.
If you start taking puberty blockers as an adolescent - Puberty blockers are designed to stop female and male hormones flooding your system when you reach puberty, which is great for preventing things like boobs or facial hair if that’s not what you want, but it also means that reproductive tracts do not fully mature. Sperm or eggs won’t develop in trans young people taking puberty blockers, so can’t be banked for future use. There are some experimental options available and you never know what the future holds, but for now adoption would be your best option if you wanted kids.
How can I support my trans child/friend/family member?
The most important thing you can do is to let them know that you’re there to support them and that you care about them and love them. Coming out as trans to you is a brave step towards that person living the life they want to live to be happy. Refer to them with the name they choose and with the pronouns they feel comfortable with. Educate yourself on gender identity - www.gires.org.uk and www.mermaidsuk.org.uk are great places to start.
Are there local support groups for trans people?
We run a youth group (Galaxy) for LGBT+ people aged 13-18 every week in Hanley. For over 18s Trans Staffordshire hold regular meet-ups for trans people in Staffordshire, find out more about them at trans-staffordshire.org.uk. There are some more groups a bit further afield, check out our Useful Links page for some more group details.