Supporting a trans child or young person who wishes to transition
What does transitioning mean?
A trans person may take social steps to transition, for example changing their name and pronoun, telling friends and family, dressing differently or changing official documents. Coming out is sometimes seen as the first of these social steps.
How will a trans child or young person want to transition?
A trans child or young person may make changes so they can look and feel the way that makes them comfortable and helps them be understood by others in their correct gender. The initial steps a trans person takes to live in the gender they identify as are often referred to as their ‘social transition’. These steps may include changing names and pronouns, telling friends and family, dressing differently, or changing official documents
There is no ‘best time’ for a trans child or young person to transition – they should be supported to do so if and when they are ready. They may take steps to transition gradually over a period of time, or choose a specific time to make several changes at once (for example to coincide with moving to a new school, college, or setting). All schools, colleges and settings (including single-sex schools) have a responsibility to support trans children or young people through a transition.
What might a child or young person transitioning have concerns about?
- What will my transition look like?
How long will my transition take?
Will I fit in and be accepted?
Will I need to leave if I’m in a single-sex school, college or setting?
Where will I sleep if I attend a residential or boarding school, college or setting?
It’s important to talk through any concerns a child or young person has about their transition and to signpost to information that can help. It may help if you assign them a support member of staff who they can approach with any worries or concerns before, during or after their transition.
Specific areas of support
The following areas of support are essential for staff to consider when supporting a trans young person.
Names and pronouns
One of the steps a trans child or young person may take is to change their name and the pronouns. Some may wish to change their pronoun from ‘he’ to ‘she’ or vice versa, while others, for example a non-binary young person, may prefer a pronoun that doesn’t relate to being male or female, such as ‘they’ or ‘zir’.
A child or young person may want to be known by their new name and pronoun at school, college or in your setting. You should ensure that this is clearly communicated to, and used consistently by, others. It is important to note how a child or young person wants their name and pronoun shared, and with whom. For instance, they might want to tell their friends first, or prefer a teacher to tell the year group all together.
Schools, colleges and settings can update computer records to reflect a child or young person’s preferred name. A trans child or young person does not need to go through a legal process to be known by their preferred name and/or pronoun. However, some children and young people may want to change their name on other documentation, such as their bus pass, passport or bank statements. Any person can evidence a change of name by deed poll, but parental consent is required for under 16s. Once changed, passports and bank statements can be amended, and exam certificates will reflect their new name.
A child or young person who wishes to change the gender on their passport can do so with a supporting letter from a health practitioner. However, their sex assigned at birth will remain on some things, including exam certificates. Under UK law, trans people under 18 are unable to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate or change their birth certificate. The DfE’s guidance for completing the school census states that children and young people’s gender should be recorded according to their wishes. Individuals may have their gender recorded on their school records in line with their gender identity – a Gender Recognition Certificate is not needed for this.
Uniform and dress
A trans child or young person may take steps to change how they dress or the uniform they wear to school, college or setting. They are much more likely to feel comfortable when all approved uniform items are available to all children and young people, regardless of gender. This is something that benefits all children and young people, not just those who are trans. However, if there are different uniforms or dress codes for boys and girls, a child or young person should be able to wear the uniform items that they feel reflect their gender.
Toilets and changing rooms
Under the Equality Act a trans child or young person should be permitted to use the toilets and changing rooms that match their gender, except where it can be demonstrated that not doing so is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.
Justifying exclusion is a high legal bar to clear. The school, college or setting must identify a sufficiently important aim; the policy must be an appropriate means of achieving that aim; the policy must be reasonably necessary in achieving that aim; and the policy must strike a fair balance between the need to accomplish the aim and the disadvantage to trans children and young people.
It is best practice to provide some facilities that aren't gender specific and support trans children and young people to use those, if that is what they prefer. The most important thing is to talk to the child or young person rather than making assumptions about the facilities they would like to use.
Sports and PE
It is important a trans child or young person can fully participate in PE lessons and sports activities, including those that match their gender identity, unless there are reasonable safety concerns. This is unlikely for most sports and age groups under 18, although staff may wish to ask advice from relevant sporting bodies for extra-curricular competitions.
It is good practice to offer all children and young people the chance to participate in mixed PE lessons and sporting activities. As with all work that challenges gender stereotypes, the introduction of mixed PE sessions opens up broader opportunities for, and offers benefits to, all learners. Joining a different PE group, playing in a different sports team or deciding which team to play in may be a daunting step for a child or young person, so staff should consider this area with sensitivity and care, particularly when supporting a non-binary child or young person
Residential or boarding settings
It's best practice to allow trans children and young people to access the residential or boarding accommodation they feel most comfortable in, which could be accommodation aligned with their gender identity, or a space that isn't gender specific. Make sure that residential or boarding staff attend the same training on trans inclusion as classroom-based staff.
Ofsted’s National Minimum Standards for Residential Special Schools (2015) and for Boarding Schools (2015) specify that:
- children and young people should not be discriminated against based on the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act (2010) and;
- that their protected characteristics (for example, gender reassignment) should be considered so that care is sensitive to their needs.
Residential trips and overseas trips
Ahead of any residential trip, talk to trans children and young people to discuss practical arrangements and to identify whether they have any concerns. Ensure that trans children and young people can access the sleeping accommodation they feel most comfortable in, which could be accommodation aligned with their gender identity, or a gender-neutral or private space.
Trips overseas may need some thought in advance. Some aspects may cause worry for a trans child or young person, such as their documentation not corresponding to their gender identity or how they look. Staff should discuss this with the child or young person, and be aware of legal protections afforded to LGBT people in the country they are visiting. It is also important that your risk assessments consider any additional steps to ensure the child or young person’s safety, for example in relation to harassment or discrimination.
Some trans children or young people feel unhappy or distressed about living with a body they don’t feel reflects their gender identity. Schools, colleges and settings can help by: ensuring that children and young people know how to access support services, that they can talk to others, using inclusive language in RSHE, and teaching about self-esteem and body confidence.
Single sex schools
The Equality Act 2010 allows for the provision of single-sex schools.
Trans children and young people attending single-sex schools, colleges or settings are not legally required to move to a different school, college or setting upon transition, so trans girls may continue to attend a boys’ school if they wish to, and trans boys may continue to attend a girls’ school if they wish to.
Under the Equality Act 2010, a trans child or young person is also able to attend a single-sex school, college or setting that matches their gender identity (unless the school, college or setting demonstrates that denying them access is a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, which is a high legal bar to clear).
Some trans children or young people feel unhappy or distressed about living with a body they don’t feel reflects their gender identity.
Schools, colleges and settings can help by:
- ensuring that children and young people know how to access support services,
- that they can talk to others, using inclusive language in RSHE,
- and teaching about self-esteem and body confidence.