200 Calls To Childline About Transgender Issues
13 December 2016, 06:52
Children as young as 11 have told counsellors they are unhappy with their gender, according to a charity.
Childline says it has held record numbers of counselling sessions about transgender and gender dysphoria in the last year.
Experts held 185 discussions with young people from Scotland between 2015 and 2016.
In the same period, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) held 2,796 UK counselling sessions with children who felt their biological sex did not match their gender.
The sessions, which amounted to eight per day, are said to have more than doubled since the service first began recording figures in 2012/13.
Young transgender people told the charity they had suicidal thoughts, self-harmed or suffered from mental health issues, which often stemmed from abuse, bullying and a lack of support.
The government's women and equalities committee has also been told the attempted suicide rate among young transgender people is 48%.
Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: "We cannot call ourselves a modern society if we stigmatise children just because they feel different.
"It is vital that children have support, otherwise, as they tell us all too often, they suffer.
"When a child is made to feel ashamed about who they are, it can trigger serious mental health issues and crippling shame.''
The charity said transgender bullying often stopped young people from speaking out. When they were honest about their gender identity, they received cruel abuse which left them feeling desperate.
Homophobic bullying, including transphobic abuse, was mentioned in 450 counselling sessions last year.
Lengthy waiting times, lack of services or NHS staff lacking understanding all contributed to mental health problems including suicidal thoughts.
When young people plucked up the courage to talk to others about how they felt, they said they were "humiliated or criticised'' or their feelings dismissed as "a phase''.
The NSPCC says parents can help children coming to terms with transgender issues by asking questions, listening to their children and suggesting support groups and medical professionals who they can talk to.
Mr Forde added: "It's vital young people are confident that if they speak out they will be able to try and navigate these confusing and complex feelings without also having to fight prejudice and abuse.
"Adults must support a child as they explore what they're feeling and guide them to get the right help when necessary.''