Gender identity refers to how you see yourself and whether you identify yourself as male, female, neither or other, irrespective of your sex at birth.
Gender identity is separate from your sexual identity, although it may affect it.
Irrespective of your gender, you may see yourself as being heterosexual/straight, homosexual/lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or other.
Understanding your Gender Identity
Many young people are clear about their gender identity from an early age.
For some, this identity fits very closely with their sex at birth. For others, even from an early age, there can be a conflict between how they feel about themselves and their identified sex at birth.
Sometimes the development of gender identity can take place gradually throughout childhood and adolescence.
When you’re feeling confused about your gender identity, it can make you feel:
These are completely normal responses to uncertainty and are usually possible to manage with support from parents/carers and friends.
You shouldn’t feel under pressure from others to go against your feelings and you may need to accept a degree of uncertainty for a while until you feel you have come to a clear decision.
Whatever you are, you know best and it’s OK. Be proud of who you are, regardless of what anyone might say.
Arriving at a decision you’re happy with
Go at your own pace when it comes to exploring your gender identity.
For some young people, worries about their gender identity can become difficult to manage.
If this is the case, it may well be a good idea to discuss things with an adult you can trust. This may be a family member of carer, or a professional such as a school nurse or a GP.
These kinds of difficulties are not seen as specific mental health problems and are usually a normal part of growing up.
However, in some cases where young people experience a mismatch between their sex and gender identity, this can be distressing and cause uncomfortable feelings which may need may need additional support (this is sometimes referred to as ‘gender dysphoria’ which is a technical name for such distress).
If you think that you may need such additional help, you should ask for this, (if possible with support from a family member or carer, or alternatively by yourself) from a professional such as a school nurse or a GP.
Non-urgent advice: Further support
There are also some helpful websites with information about gender identity such as:
- Childline: Gender identity
- Mermaids: Mermaids
- YoungMinds: A Guide for Young people – Gender and Mental Health
- YoungMinds: Supporting Your Child with Gender Identity Issues
- GIDS: GIDS
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Page last reviewed: 16 June, 2022