Were you aware that we are in the midst of Transgender Awareness Week?
The term ‘transgender’ refers to people who’s sense of their own gender is different from the sex characteristics that they were born with. Gender identity issues appear to have grown exponentially in the last few years. The Tavistock and Portman Trust Gender Identity Development Service published figures this year that indicate the number of referrals of young children aged between three and seven years old to the clinic has increased from 20 (2012-13) to 84 (2015-16). In 2016, they experienced an unprecedented increase in referrals of children (aged under 18 years) of 100% up from 697 to 1,398.
If you are a psychologist, the British Psychological Society provide published guidelines (click here) for working therapeutically with sexual and gender minority people. This extensive resource was published in 2012 and includes ethical standards and responsibilities for practitioner psychologists, a literature review (which could probably do with updating) and advice regarding the education, training and professional needs of psychologists.
In addition to encouraging psychologists to recognise the impact of the environment, socio-political context and attitudes towards children and young people, this document also encourages psychologists to recognise the diversity of developmental pathways for gender minority children and young people, recognise the needs of these children and young people, as well as their vulnerabilities and risks, and are encouraged to support self-determination in the people that they are working with.
A more updated piece of research in this area was published in September’s issue of the BPS DECP journal – Educational and Child Psychology. Bowskill (2017) carried out an interesting piece of small-scale research including twenty-five semi-structured interviews with both transgender adults and professionals who have worked with transgender young people. From this work, she concluded that educational settings need to develop a greater understanding of gender, and suggests that this would reduce gender stereotyping and reinforcement of gender binary. Specifically she recommended educational professionals use appropriate language, have an individualised and flexible approach to children and young people, be proactive in their responses, and made further practical suggestions to ensure a trans-friendly educational environment such as changing the child or young person’s name on the system (where possible), referring to the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Development Service and using statutory information such as the Equality Act to justify decision making. This piece of research highlighted the role of Educational Psychologist (EP) in challenging negative systems within schools, training school staff to better understand transgender and gender identity issues, exploring next steps in school and giving reassurance. Additionally, Bowskill suggests that EPs might be able to help coordinate action, signpost information and link with external agencies. She states that EPs can also play an important role in gathering the child or young persons views and work with the school to meet their needs. However, this research also highlighted that some EPs may not yet “be educated enough in this area” and states that this could impact on the effectiveness of EPs work. As yet, there are no specific guidelines for EPs working with transgender and gender fluid children and young people and it is not necessarily an area that EPs would cover in training.
Are you an Educational Psychologist or professional working with transgender or gender fluid children and young people? What are your thoughts?
More information: If you have questions about gender variance or gender fluidity, Mermaids.org.uk is a great charity that works with children, young people and their families to achieve “a happier life in the face of great adversity”. The aim to help reduce isolation and loneliness for children, young people and parents experiencing gender issues; empower people with the right tools to help them negotiate education and health services; reduce suicides and self-harm in children and young people experiencing gender issues; improve self-esteem and social skills in children and young people experiencing gender issues; and improve awareness, understanding and practices of GP’s, CAMHS, Social Services and other professionals.
Another useful resource is the “Supporting Transgender Young people: Guidance for Schools in Scotland” document (Click here)
What do I need to know? Mermaids factsheet for professionals working with young people under 18 years with gender variance (click here)
What is gender? (EACH UK) This video has been made by young people for young people.
Why is Gender Identity so important? TEDX talks
Bowskill., T (2017) How can educational professionals improve outcomes for transgender children and young people? In Emergent Topics in Educational Psychology, DECP Educational and Child Psychology, 34, 3.