Children and teenagers who want or need to affirm gender identity
If your child identifies as a gender that’s different from their assumed gender based on the sex they were given at birth, your child might want or need to affirm their gender identity.
For many trans or gender-diverse children and young people, affirming their gender identity is about openly acknowledging a gender that they already feel themselves to be.
Some trans or gender-diverse children experience gender dysphoria . For these young people, affirming their gender identity is essential for their health and wellbeing.
Gender-affirming care: first steps
If your child wants to affirm their gender or you’re worried that your child has gender dysphoria, going to your GP is a good first step. The GP can give you information and a referral to a psychologist or the specialist gender service in your state or territory.
It’s OK to seek a second opinion if your GP or psychologist doesn’t know a lot about the needs of children who are questioning their gender, experiencing gender dysphoria or wanting to affirm their gender.
Gender-affirming care depends on children’s individual needs. It will focus on your child’s physical and psychological wellbeing and aim to support them as they affirm their gender identity. Gender-affirming care also depends on children’s stage of development.
Before puberty: options for affirming gender identity
If your child hasn’t reached puberty, the professionals supporting your child might:
- work with your family to help you understand your child’s experience and support your child
- support your child to understand their gender identity
- support your child to affirm their gender socially, where appropriate.
During puberty: options for affirming gender identity
Once puberty has started, options include the following:
- Information and family therapy – this can help you understand your child’s experience and support your child.
- Psychological support like psychotherapy – this can help your child explore their gender and cope with challenges like bullying, self-esteem issues or mental health difficulties.
- Voice coaching or speech therapy – this can improve your child’s confidence if they feel their voice contributes to them being misgendered.
- Medical support – this can help your child affirm their gender and reduce their gender dysphoria, where appropriate.
Medical support for affirming gender
For some children who want to affirm their gender identity, medical support can help to reduce the distress associated with physical aspects of their bodies.
If this sounds like your child, your child will need to have a comprehensive medical and mental health assessment before health professionals will consider or recommend medical support. It’s also important for them to be involved in decisions about medical support.
Once puberty has begun, the main options for medical support are:
- hormone treatment.
Depending on the stage of puberty, medicines can put puberty on hold or reduce the changes of puberty. The aim of these treatments is to reduce your child’s distress about gender and improve their wellbeing.
Puberty blockers are medicines that block the progression of puberty. The effects of puberty blockers can be reversed.
If puberty is nearly finished, there are medicines that can change the way your child’s body functions and reduce their emotional distress. For example, some medicines can stop periods.
Gender-affirming hormone treatment can change your child’s body so that it’s more consistent with your child’s gender identity. It might be appropriate for some older teenagers. It has some irreversible effects.
Treatment should never involve trying to make a child cisgender. This is called conversion therapy, and it can cause severe psychological damage. Australian, state and territory governments support bans or have made conversion therapy illegal.
Looking after yourself
You might have mixed and varied emotions about your child affirming their gender.
It’s important to get support for yourself, especially if you’re worried or feeling anxious. Your GP is a good place to start. Other parents of trans or gender-diverse children can also be a good source of support and information.
Many families have experienced or are experiencing similar challenges adapting to their child’s gender identity. It might help to get in touch with a parent support group like Transcend or Parents of Gender Diverse Children or with other support services and resources like Transforming Families or Minus 18.