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Imagine gender as a colour paint chart with hundreds of different colours and shades - your gender can fit anywhere on this paint chart.
You might identify with many different colours. Wherever you feel you fit, and whatever you decide, it's okay.
If you identify as transgender this page is for you, but there is more information on the other Suffolk Gender Identity Hub pages that you may find interesting and useful. This page gives ADULT service user information. Information for children and young people can be found via The Source.
What is Gender Identity?
Gender identity is the way we all identify ourselves, typically as a boy/man or as a girl/woman. This ‘binary’ model 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.
People have the right to self-identity. Some experience a gender identity different from their sex appearance, and some may see themselves as ‘gender neutral’ or ‘non-gender’. It is 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 is a term used to describe anyone who identifies with a gender which is different to the one they were given at birth, and to the usual gender norms of their society. Because the way we experience gender is different from person to person, transgender is used all inclusively to describe both those 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.
Where can I go to talk about my gender identity?
Sharing your gender identity is called coming out. This isn’t necessarily a one-off event - trans people may have to come out many times during their lives. Sharing is a very individual process and people may face different challenges. The Stonewall website talks through this process in detail, and provides some helpful information which can help you to understand what you may be experiencing.
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 you are looking for may vary depending on whether you are a trans man or trans woman and the stage you are at in exploring and transitioning.
Talking to a professional
If you are questioning your gender identity, or are thinking about transitioning into a new gender role, you may need to speak to different professionals along the way to help you on this journey. You may want to talk to your GP about the medical side of your care. They are usually the first point of call if you are thinking about having any treatments such as hormone therapy or surgery. To treat you safely and well it's important that health-care professionals can see your health records Click here to find out more and how to 'share' (return the completed form to your GP).
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 help you have this conversation. The Royal Society of General Practitioners (RSGP) and GIRES have produced an e-learning guide on gender variance which your GP may find useful.
You may also have other questions which relate to your work, marriage, your legal rights, and how to be recognised formally as a gender which is different to the one you were given at birth. The press for change website is a good place to start, as it has information about the laws which protect you, and the steps you would need to take to gain a gender recognition certificate. We would also encourage you to look at the 'for professionals and managers' page to understand what professionals should be doing to support you.
I'm at a point of crisis, where can I get help?
If you find yourself 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 you are 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 several gender identity clinics (GIC) where people can go for transitioning support. 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.
To get a referral into a GIC, you will need to go through your GP or a health professional. To access the adult clinic, you will need to be at least 17 years and 6 months old (no mental health assessment is needed). If you are younger than this, you will need to be referred to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS).
The General Medical Council provides advice to doctors (GP and hospital) on treating patients who identify as transgender including the different stages of treatment, how they should prescribe medication, and what they are expected to do to support you. Having a look at this information may help you to understand what you can expect.
Supported by GIRES and Press for Change, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has also produced guidelines on how health professionals can work together to improve the outcomes of their patients. Understanding these guidelines could also be useful.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust provide local NHS mental health support for people who live in Suffolk.
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 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 is important to know which screening programmes apply to you if you are thinking about transitioning into a new gender role (especially if you require medical treatments to help you with your transition).
Sexual health is an important part of healthy relationships. Making sure you look after your sexual health can protect you from disease, help to avoid unplanned pregnancies, and can help you have healthy and happy relationships free of prejudice and discrimination.
In Suffolk, there are specific services which can help you to maintain good sexual health. Information on these can be found on our sexual health page.
Below is also some useful information which can help to 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 can I find locally?
Local support is provided by the following organisations:
- Gender Xplored which is a self-help group located in Ipswich (but for people across Suffolk) for people with gender Identity questions. This group provides monthly meet ups, social activities and places to talk online
- Outreach Youth working with children and young adults up to the age of 19 (trans family support offered)
- Phoenix Rising CiC who work to help people through education
- Suffolk Night Owls offers an evening telephone service for people with complex needs (currently Thurs – Sun 8pm-2am)
- Suffolk LGBT Network offers free confidential counselling services to individuals who identify with a gender outside of the status quo
The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust provide local NHS mental health support. The Health Outreach Service can provide some targeted support through their marginalised adults offer. An information leaflet and referral form can be accessed through these links.
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 out more about transgender rights?
What does the law say?
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. It has summaries of the Human Rights Act 1998, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (including applying for legal recognition for a preferred gender) and the Equalities Act 2010.
Full copies of Government legislation can be searched for here.
Parliamentary Research briefings can be searched for here including guidelines for the Treatment of Transgender Prisoners (Nov 2016).
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.
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 people who are transgender 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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