Gendered Intelligence – helping young trans people

Dr Jay Stewart
Dr Jay Stewart, MBE is CEO / Co-founder of Gendered Intelligence - a Community Interest Company, established in 2008, that provides activities, support, training and resources for the trans community and all those who work with or support trans people. It specialises in supporting young trans and gender questioning people between the ages of 8 and 30. For more information check - http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/

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Our mission at Gendered Intelligence is to increase understanding of gender diversity and to improve the quality of life of trans people, and young trans people in particular.  We work predominantly with the trans community and those who impact on trans lives (including parents, teachers, policy makers and organisations). We particularly specialise in supporting young trans people aged 8-30. ‘Gender dysphoria’ is a clinical term, but at Gendered Intelligence we talk about people being trans, or identifying as trans or questioning their gender identity. For us, this describes the spectrum of people who feel that their assigned gender at birth doesn’t match their sense of self. If we use these types of terms we can centre more fully our identity, who we are and what we want to become, rather than figuring ourselves as a person with a mental health problem.

Our work goes wider than this though. Our vision is of a world where people are no longer constrained by narrow perceptions of gender and where diverse gender expressions are visible and valued. We believe this affects everyone and so trans inclusive practices benefit everyone.

In order to achieve our goals, we deliver programmes for young people who identify as trans or are questioning their gender identity, including residentials.  We work in education settings too delivering workshops and assemblies for students in primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and Universities to talk about how the gender binary (being male or female) gets reinforced on a daily basis and to challenge gender stereotypes and social expectations of gender norms.  Professionals need support in their roles too and we carry out professional development training, consultancy and policy work across a range of settings. Next year Gendered Intelligence will celebrate its 10th birthday. We have seen some important changes over these years, not least an increased positive attitude for providing trans inclusive services and there has been concerted effort within the Government to address the inequalities that trans people sometimes experience.

We do know that many trans people experience mental distress mostly due to the discrimination we face or poor experiences that we have being in the world. Trans people are particularly at risk of experiencing difficulties with their emotional health and mental wellbeing, due to the barriers they face in connection with their gender identity. In ‘Gender Dysphoria Services: A Guide for General Practitioners and other Healthcare Staff’ (Apr 2013):
“It should be emphasised that Gender Dysphoria and Transsexualism are not considered, in and of themselves, mental illnesses in any essential sense.  The associated pressures of unmanaged dysphoria and/or the social stigma that can accompany gender diagnosis and transition may, however, result in clinically significant levels of distress.”

Studies on trans people including trans youth are fairly thin.  The Youth Chances Report – The Metro Centre Ltd, University of Greenwich, Ergo Consulting, January 2014 (16-25, 6,514, incl. 956 young trans people) shows there is a significant number of young trans people who are not adopting binary roles or approaches and the whole structure of our systems and culture is essentially not fit for purpose for these young people. In this report we learn that 90% of all respondents agreed that discrimination against transgender people is still common. It also tells us that 72% claimed to have self-harmed; 66% reported having a mental health condition that affects their normal activities.

There has been a large increase in the number of young trans people seeking support. Referrals to all gender services are increasing. The Tavistock clinic, the only centre for children and adolescents in England, has seen referral increases of about 50% a year since 2010-11. In the past year it has had an unprecedented increase of 100%, up from 697 to 1,398 referrals. Young trans people face disadvantages not faced by other young people. They are vulnerable & experience isolation, shame, rejection and poor mental health.

At the present time waiting times for Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) or Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) breach the 18-week statutory limit.  Mental distress is exacerbated by these waiting times.

That’s why we have established a network for therapists and counsellors. The objective here is for GI to ensure that young trans people (and their families) have a positive experience in a therapy setting and to understand therapy as a useful resource or framework for help now as well as entering into adult life. We provide intense training, ongoing support through group supervision and consultation. They can also go on our Gendered Intelligence Directory for therapists and counsellors, so that our young members and their families can feel confident that they are going to be treated with respect and have some good understanding.

As trans people, we need to be able to develop resilience, to manage the setbacks and discrimination that we might experience. As well as connecting to trans communities, building pride in our identities exploring our gender in a safe therapeutic environment is very important, lifesaving even.

Discover more articles from The Bridge.

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