The NSPCC service Childline has reported a marked increase in children and young people seeking advice about issues relating to gender and sexuality over the last year
The charity claims it carried out 6,014 counselling sessions last year, on average, equating to 16 every day. Among these counselling sessions, there was a 40% increase in concerns about coming out, increasing from 1,508 counselling sessions in 2017/18 to 2,110 sessions in 2018/19.
Additionally, Childline has revealed that views on the transgender page of their website have almost doubled in the same timeframe.
Over 6,000 young people turned to #Childline for support last year about issues around gender and sexual identity. To find out more about the news story, visit: https://t.co/s0bF1kNe5U pic.twitter.com/cOMARmanmZ— NSPCC (@NSPCC) June 5, 2019
One boy told counsellors: “I have been feeling depressed and suicidal for about three years. My parents don't understand me at all. I came out as Trans and they think it’s just a phase and refuse to accept me. I am in pain.”
The most common age group to contact Childline about these issues were 12 to 15 year olds, and 409 of the counselling sessions were with 11-year-olds or younger.
These figures are revealed during Pride month and also during the charity’s LGBTQ+ campaign, which aims to remind all young people that Childline is confidential and there for them if they have any concerns about their gender or sexual identity.
The charity has also been working with influencers and celebrities including model, activist and LGBTQ+ campaigner Munroe Bergdorf, who has created a film to support young people if they think they’re trans.
Munroe said: “There’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQ+, expressing your gender or even being unsure of your gender. No-one should ever make you feel like you shouldn’t exist because you feel differently to them.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that your emotions or feelings don’t matter because if you hear it enough it will break you. Find friends, teachers, parents or organisations like Childline who you can open up to and express any worries or concerns you have.”
Homophobic bullying was mentioned in 573 counselling sessions and can discourage young people from speaking out about sexuality or gender identity.
Another young person told Childline: “I’m getting bullied by people at my school because I am bisexual. They call me horrible names and tell me I should kill myself. I feel depressed about it all the time. I have tried talking to people about it for support but they just tell me I should ignore the bullies, which doesn’t help.”
Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said: “I have met young people who were desperately unhappy because they couldn’t talk to anyone about issues regarding their sexuality or gender, and often turn to Childline because they fear they would lose their friends and be rejected by their families if they disclosed their feelings to them. So I am glad that they felt able to talk to Childline and reveal their feelings without being judged or stigmatised.
“I know that some adults feel uncomfortable talking about these issues with young people, but if we create a taboo around them, that can make children feel guilty, rejected and in some cases has even led to depression and even suicide. We all need to listen sensitively and support young people and protect them from this profound unhappiness and loneliness.”
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children can call Childline anonymously on 0800 11 11 or www.childline.org.uk any time of the day or night.
For further help, read our advice for how to support a loved one as they come out as trans and our guide for transitioning teens.