I'm here for someone I am supporting
The information on this page is for people supporting an adult who is questioning or has changed their gender identity. We also encourage you to explore the other pages of the Suffolk Identity Hub as they may contain information you will find interesting and useful.
This page gives ADULT service user information. Information for children and young people can be found via The Source. We've had to split the information this way as there are often different health needs and routes to services depending on whether you are a child, young person, or adult.
What is gender identity?
Gender identity is the way we all identify ourselves, typically as a boy/man or as a girl/woman. However, thinking of gender in this way, as simply male and female, assumes that a person’s sense of identity will match their physical appearance as either a male or female; but this is not always the case.
For some the sex they were given at birth doesn't match the way they experience their gender. People have the right to self-identify, and many people reject the whole idea of male and female tick-boxes, and describe themselves using more open terms.
Thinking of gender as a spectrum, with masculine and feminine as two points at each end, can be a more helpful way of thinking about gender, as it includes people who permanently change their gender or who experience it as a blend of masculine and feminine, or something ‘fluid’ which shifts. More information can be found here.
It is also useful to know about the different words people use to describe themselves in relation to gender; GIRES provide some useful information on the types of labels people are using.
You can also find further information on different aspects of gender and how we can make sense of it at Gender Spectrum.
What is being Transgender?
Transgender or 'trans' are terms used to describe anyone who identifies with a gender which is different to the sex they were given at birth. Because the way we experience gender is different from person to person, transgender is used all inclusively to describe both people who permanently change their gender role (with and without surgery), and those who may have a more fluid and changing experience of gender.
Gender terminology is varied and constantly changing as understanding and perceptions of gender variance grows. GIRES provide more information on terminology.
It may also be useful to visit the Transvision site which shares the stories of people from the LGBT community in Scotland.
Supporting someone who is transgender
Supporting someone who is transgender can be difficult, as you may not have been in a situation where you have had to understand a gender identity which is different from the norm. However, it is important to remember that this is just as difficult for the person questioning their gender identity, and can be hard for them to go through that journey alone.
Resources have been created to help answer some of the questions you may have, and which draw on other people's experiences to provide some useful tips for how you can best support somebody who is transgender.
The Stonewall website provides a helpful description of what it is like to tell people about your gender identity. GLAAD also provide some tips for allies of transgender people which can help you to manage some of the situations you may encounter whilst supporting someone who is transgender.
Where can someone go if they need to talk?
The Beaumont Society is a national organisation run by people from the transgender community. One of their aims is to offer support and resources to improve the health, wellbeing and emotional confidence of others in the community. The Gender Trust provide advice on all types of gender issues including transgender. Gendered Intelligence works with young adults up to the age of 21.
The type of support someone is looking for may vary depending on whether they are a trans-man (born as a woman but identify as a man) or trans- woman (born as a man but identify as a woman) and the stage they are at in exploring and transitioning.
Talking to a Professional
At some point in their journey, the person you are supporting may want to talk to their GP about the medical side of their care. They are usually the first point of call if someone is thinking about having any treatments such as hormone therapy or surgery.
Although awareness of trans and non-binary health issues has increased, some GPs may not have much experience, NHS Choices has useful links and resources to inform this conversation. The Royal Society of General Practitioners (RSGP) and GIRES have produced an e-learning guide on gender variance which GPs may find useful.
Where can someone at a point of crisis get help?
If you find yourself supporting someone at a point of crisis the Samaritans provide a free 24-hour telephone service which operates 365 days a year.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) provide local mental health NHS crisis support.
Mindline Trans+ - is a volunteer helpline operating across England and Wales staffed by individuals identifying as trans Click here for more information including operating times.
If the person you are supporting is experiencing abuse in a relationship Galop an anti-violence and abuse charity offers support to members of the LGBT community.
What's out there to support transgender health?
Health support to transition
Nationally, there are specialist clinics called gender identity clinics (GIC) where people can go for support to transition in their gender roles. In Suffolk, the GIC service is provided by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. This specialist service is commissioned by NHS England, click here to find out about the clinical reference group and the latest on consultations and guidance.
The individual will need to go through their GP to get a referral to the GIC, and will need to be at least 17 years and 6 months old to access the adult service.
The General Medical Council provides advice to doctors (GP and hospital) on treating patients who identify as trans, including treatment pathways , prescribing and ethical obligations. Accessing these links may help understand what to expect.
Supported by GIRES and Press for Change, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced good practice guidelines on how health professionals can work collaboratively to improve the outcomes of their patients.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust provide local NHS mental health support for Suffolk residents.
If you feel somebody is experiencing poor metal health or wellbeing, The Suffolk Wellbeing Service (for those living in East and West Suffolk) and the Norfolk and Waveney Wellbeing Service (for those living in Waveney) offer a range of free support services.
The services offered include:
- Stress control and wellbeing workshops
- Telephone support
- Short term therapy
- One to one counselling
There is also more tailored support available from organisations such as Mind mental health charity who now host a Trans+ helpline, as well as the local Suffolk LGBT+ network who offer a free confidential counselling service, as well as a helpline and peer support groups.
Metro Charity is a London based organisation that offers mental-health advocacy for the LGBT community.
The NHS deliver what are called 'screening programmes', which aim to identify people who look healthy, but may actually be at risk of particular diseases or conditions.
There is information about the different NHS screening programmes and how they apply to transmen and women. It may be useful to know which screening programmes apply to the person you are supporting, especially if they require medical treatments to help with their transition.
Sexual health is an important part of healthy relationships. In Suffolk, there are specific services which can help people to maintain good sexual health. Information on these services can be found on our sexual health page.
Below is also some useful information which can help you to understand some of the specific aspects of sexual health for people who identify as transgender:
- Terrence Higgins Trust have useful links to information on HIV and STIs, contraception, sex and relationships. The trans* pages are being revised as the THT website has recently been updated.
- National Centre for transgender Equality which provides some key facts on the sexual and reproductive health of transgender people
- A statement from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare which provides guidance on contraception choices for transgender and non-binary people who have vaginal sex and where they may be a chance of pregnancy.
What support is available locally?
Local support is provided by the following organisations:
- Gender Xplored Suffolk’s LGBT over 18 network
- Outreach Youth working with children and young adults up to the age of 19 (trans family support offered)
- Phoenix Rising CiC enabling people, through education, the freedom to live their own life as they want to live it
- Suffolk LGBT Network supporting the LGBT community in Suffolk
- The Health Outreach Service - can provide some targeted support as part of their marginalised adults offer. An information leaflet and referral form can be accessed through these links
The following organisations can support carers and those supporting someone who is transgender:
Local events of interest to the transgender and non-binary community:
- Annual Rainbow Conference - details of the 2018 conference will be posted once available
Where can I find information on transgender rights?
What the law and legislation says
GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION ON THE GENDER RECOGNITION ACT 2004 - OPEN UNITL 19TH OCTOBER 2018 more information
Press for Change provides information on the law and how it relates to people identifying as transgender including summaries of the, Human Rights Act 1998, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (including applying for legal recognition for a person’s preferred gender) and the Equalities Act 2010.
Full copies of Government legislation can be searched for here.
Equalities Office - dress code and sex discrimination guidance (May 2018).
HM Land Registry change of name form to update the registered owner where change of gender has taken place.
HM Government- National LGBT Survey: research report; LGBTAction Plan 2018: improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; Improving LGBT Lives: government action since 2010 (all July 2018).
What organisations are saying about transgender health needs
Several organisations have produced reports or policies on how the health needs of the transgender community are being experienced or responded to:
- LGBTQI+* - Disabled People and self-directed social care support
- London Assembly (2018) - Mental Health and Marginalisation including report
- ACAS (2018) - Information and research for employers, to enable them to support trans employees
- Healthwatch Gloucestershire (2017) - Report on access to health and support services for transgender individuals and their families
- Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (2017) – Practice guidance for staff working in mental health to support service users who identify as transgender
- Stonewall and YouGov (2017) - LGBT Britain: trans report includes a section on unmet health needs
- Time for Change (2017) employer pledge which aims to improve mental health in the workplace (not transgender specific)
- Trans Advocacy Service for Brighton and Hove (2016) transgender advocacy work
- NISER (2016) systematic review of the inequalities experienced by the LGBT community including health
- Care Quality Commission (2016) Addressing inequalities in end of life care for LGBT+
- GIRES (2012) - Trans mental health study
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