Support for trans children and young people

2018 is an interesting, difficult and exciting time to be a young trans person. The media, and society at large, are realising that trans people exist, and while this is often meaning harmful, negative and untruthful reporting in the press, it’s also leading to more and more role models coming out for young trans people, and greater opportunities and options around expressing yourself. Last week the Oscars had its first out trans presenter – Daniela Vega, the film she starred in won an award, and she wasn’t the only trans person celebrated on the stage during the evening (Yance Ford was nominated and Janet Mock was part of Common and Andra Day’s performance).

One difficulty in the current environment of instant access to information, though, is knowing what to trust and believe, and what is at best uninformed, or at worst intentionally trying to be harmful (many of you will have seen the recent ‘Transgender Trend’ ‘guidance’ for schools, which definitely sits in the latter category – an upcoming event on the 19th March launches two new books which were written by LGBT people and with the needs of LGBT students in mind, a timely intervention). Often our guts, or a bit of research into the backgrounds of things, can tell us, but it’s not always immediately apparent, so I wanted to share a couple of links to organisations that I always look up to, respect and trust.

Gendered Intelligence runs youth groups in London, Bristol and Leeds, an annual summer camp and a wide range of training for teachers, schools & colleges, and anyone who works with young people. They’ve supported The Partnership in ensuring that trans young people have a voice in work we’ve done, and they bring a background in theatre and performance as well as collaboration across the LGBTQ sector to their work with trans people that opens up opportunities that would have been unheard of 10 to 15 years ago.

Mermaids have been around for more than 20 years, but are still leading the fight for young trans people’s rights. Mermaids provide advice and support to parents, children and professionals and run local groups around the country and regular weekend camps for trans children, young people and their families. Mermaids are often the targets of negative media attention, the unfortunate side-effect of doing such important work, and an important task for allies is to stand up to this bullying. A lot of these attacks rest on the assumption that ‘everyone thinks this way, I’m just the one confident enough to say it’, so when you see lies being spread about trans young people, it’s important to speak out and say ‘I don’t agree, that’s not how it really is, I don’t feel that way about this, you don’t speak for me.’

This last point is something that the author Juno Dawson reiterated when she spoke at the Brighton International Women’s Day event earlier this month. Juno used to be a primary school teacher and now writes YA novels and also non-fiction works about sexuality and gender (a number of people in the audience talked about how important This Book Is Gay had been to them). If what you’re looking for isn’t youth groups or training, but just something interesting to read, perhaps give her books a go.

Harri Weeks is the Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the National LGB&T Partnership. They have worked in the Education and Health sectors for over 10 years, always specialising in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, with a particular focus on LGBTQ communities, gender, intersections of identity, and engagement with less-heard communities. As a trans person themselves, Harri was very happy to pull together some thoughts on the needs of young trans people for YP Health Focus Week, but didn’t want to present a dry list of damning statistics.

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