Supporting Trans Young People
Supporting Trans Young People
Every young person and situation will be different. You may be approached by a young person who tells you they are trans, who is planning to transition or who has already taken steps to do so. Equally, some young people may want to talk to the rest of the section about their identity and any changes they have already made or plan to make, while others may not. A young person may be questioning their gender identity and be unsure if they are trans or not.
The first step to supporting any young person who tells you they are trans, or who is questioning their gender identity, is to listen without making any judgements or assumptions. Reassure them that Scouting is an inclusive movement and that they will always be welcome.
The next step is to ask if there is anything they might need to make them feel comfortable and included in the section. The young person may talk about:
- what pronoun or name they would like to use, and when to use it (this may not be all the time)
- whether, when and how they might like to share anything with other members in the section
- which toilets and facilities they would like to use
- changes to their uniform
- where to find information or support outside of Scouting
A young person might not want to do anything at all, or may need some time to think about any adjustments they need, so let them know that they can always come back to talk to you.
If a young person tells you that they are or thinks they might be trans, it is usually a positive sign that they trust you. Reassure the young person that you will not share this personal information with others (including volunteers, members, parents/carers) without their permission, unless you have concerns for their welfare or safety. Doing so could not only be distressing for that young person but, importantly, would put you at risk of breaking data protection laws.
However, it is helpful to talk to the young person about whether they have told anyone else (e.g. parents/carers/other members) and who else it might be helpful to speak to, to make sure they are fully supported and included in Scouting. This could be, for example, speaking to a leader in the next section a young person is moving to or asking if the young person would like another leader to know for occasions when you are not there. It is important to agree with the young person when and with whom any further conversations will happen, and to make sure that you do not share information more widely than this.
Confidentiality should always be viewed in line with Scouting’s Yellow Card safeguarding code of practice. If you are concerned about a trans young person’s welfare, it would be appropriate to disclose that they are trans, if it is relevant to the situation. This should be done sensitively, and ideally in conversation with the young person, to avoid unnecessary distress.
As with all young people, it is a safeguarding issue if a trans member is being abused, harassed or discriminated against.
Being trans in and of itself is not a safeguarding risk and must not be treated in that way.
If you are unsure about a specific situation, worried about a potential data breach or just need further advice or guidance, you can contact the Scout Information Centre on 0845 300 1818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As well as listening to the young person, there are lots of simple, practical things you can do to make sure current or new trans members will feel welcome in your section:
- Allow young people to express their identity freely and avoid making assumptions
- Avoid gender stereotypes (e.g. boys like football, girls like cooking)
- Avoid unnecessarily splitting the group into genders for activities or getting young people to line up boy/girl/boy
To make sure a current trans member feels included:
- Use the young person’s preferred name and pronouns. If you do make a mistake, don’t worry but be sure to correct yourself and apologise
- Be aware that a young person probably won’t want to appear different from their peers. Make sure their identity doesn’t become a talking point
- Be vigilant for signs of transphobic and homophobic bullying and language; this should not be tolerated. See our guidance on preventing and dealing with bullying
- Act as a role model, or ally, regardless of your own sexual orientation, by being open and raising awareness about sexual orientation diversity. You do not need to be an expert; leaders who are open, offer positive messages and challenge transphobia, will make a real difference in creating a more inclusive environment
Trans young people may feel particularly anxious about their physical appearance or abilities. Some may feel uncomfortable taking part in activities that require physical contact or wearing certain clothing, such as swimwear for water-based activities. The reality is that lots of young people may feel anxious around activities for different reasons, so it is helpful to routinely involve members in the planning process, giving them time and opportunities to raise any concerns in the group or privately.
Binders are a chest compression item that are worn by some trans and non-binary people, there are limitations about how often they can be worn and for how long, so if a young person is wearing one it’s best to discuss this with them. Specific binders are available for swimming but generally shouldn’t be worn during exercise.
As with any young person, avoid making any assumptions. Speak to the member in advance about any concerns, adjustments they might need or alternative activities that they would prefer. Offering alternative activities to all members will not only ensure the trans young person doesn’t feel singled out, but might well make other members feel more able to participate too.
All young members should be involved in advance when planning trips away to make sure they feel happy and comfortable with the arrangements. There are lots of reasons why young people will have different requirements on trips. For many trans young people, privacy will be an important consideration. Making adjustments and being flexible will ensure that everyone feels able to join in.
Arrangements for trips should always be in line with Scouting’s risk assessment and Yellow Card procedures.
To make sure all members feel included you can:.
- Make a range of different sleeping options available to all members, including mixed-sex accommodation, single and multiple occupancy tents or dorms, compartment tents with single rooms in them that a young person could discreetly use
- Speak to the young person discreetly about what would make them feel comfortable and included. Avoid making assumptions about what this will look like, but be aware that having access to a private space may be important
- Ask who they would be happy to share accommodation with
- Ensure, as with any young person, that you are aware of any medication they are taking. Ask the young person who they wish the leader responsible for this to be and do not share this information more widely. Hormone replacement medication may be required during long camps and/or international trips. Adequate storage will be required as will the ability to dispose of any needles safely and appropriately
For trans members, it may be useful to create a plan to record any agreed adjustments, being mindful of confidentiality. Some young people will have made similar arrangements for school trips which could be a useful starting point.
When planning trips abroad, be aware that some countries actively discriminate against trans people. You will need to consider this in any international planning. For further information, please contact the Information Centre 0845 300 1818.
Trans young people should be able to use the toilets or facilities of the gender they identify as. Talk to the young person about which facilities they would like to use at regular meeting places and on residential trips. Remember most young people would prefer privacy when using facilities. Providing a range of options to everyone will not only avoid a trans person feeling singled out, uncomfortable or unsafe using facilities, but will probably make everyone else in the section feel more comfortable too.
These practical ideas will help you to make sure everyone feels comfortable:
- Providing mixed-gender (also known as ‘gender neutral’) toilets wherever possible
- Re-labelling one set of toilets, or an accessible toilet, as gender-neutral
- Using venues with self-contained or individual toilet and shower cubicles that can be used by anyone
- Designating a private changing space for anyone who needs to use it
- Creating partitions using sheets or screens in changing areas so that all members can have privacy
- Developing a rota so that everyone can have private bathing / bathroom time
Parents and carers may have general questions about trans people, or if there is a trans member in your group. You must not disclose confidential information about a trans young person to other parents and carers without that young person’s consent. Even if a young member is openly trans it is important that their identity does not become a talking point in the section. You can direct parents and carers to the Inclusion and Diversity pages and to Scouting’s Equal Opportunities Policy. Let them know that as a leader your priority is to make sure that all members feel welcome, comfortable and included in Scouting, and that we often make adjustments for different young people as part of this.
Volunteers should be reminded of their commitment to the Equal Opportunities Policy and their line manager should support them to change their practice. Often, taking steps to raise awareness or understanding can help. This could involve discussion, or it may be useful to arrange an awareness raising session in your District/County. Our National Inclusion Team may be able to support you with this.
It's the responsibility of all adults to act as role models by celebrating diversity and creating an environment in which all members can enjoy safe, inclusive Scouting.