The last decade has seen major changes in how society understands gender identity. And as we mark international non-binary awareness day, I’d like to talk to your audience about ways that adults can support a child if they want to explore their gender identity.

First, it’s useful to clear up what being non-binary means. If someone is non-binary, then they don’t identify as either the male or female gender.

Of course, if a young person is questioning their gender identity, it can be a difficult time, and a challenge for you to know how you can help. However, there are a few ways that you can make sure a child or young person is supported however they choose to identify.

If a young person wants to talk to you about gender, then it is useful to listen patiently and ask gentle questions if you feel you need to. Make it a safe space for the young person to talk about their feelings, and try to pay attention to what they’re saying without looking at phones or interrupting. It’s good to reassure them that you won’t treat them any differently, and will be there to support them.

It’s also useful to let them know that they have the right not to be discriminated against for being transgender, and that if anyone is transphobic or abusive, that they should tell a trusted adult right away.

Some young people might want to change their name, pronouns or appearance to better reflect their gender. Where you’ve previously referred to them as ‘she’ or ‘he’, they might want to change to being called ‘they’ or ‘them’.

You can also help them find support groups and medical professionals who they can talk to, starting by reaching out to a GP if you think it’s necessary.

Helen Westerman

Head of Safeguarding at NSPCC