If you were born female, but are not happy with being a girl, or born male and feel that you are unhappy being a boy; this is known as gender dysphoria.

When people start to change their gender role this is known as ‘transition’

What is it?

Most people are happy with their gender. For example, a baby born male will be happy to be known as a boy as he grows up.

But if you were born male and are not happy with being a boy, or born female and are unhappy being a girl; this is known as gender dysphoria.

There are lots of children and young people who feel that their gender identity (their sense of themselves as a boy or girl) is not a complete match with the sex they were assigned at birth. So, a person who was assigned male may identify as a girl, or towards the feminine end of the spectrum - a trans girl; or a person assigned female at birth may identify as a boy, or towards the masculine end of the spectrum - a trans boy.

People who feel this way are most commonly known as 'transgender', 'trans' or ‘trans*’. Sometimes the terms ‘gender nonconforming’ or ‘gender variant’ are used.

This NHS e-learning resource describes the range of people on the transgender spectrum, including those who feel they are not really either a boy or a girl, which may be described as ‘non-binary’.

How will I know if I have it?

Only you can ever say whether you are trans. Children sometimes know from a very young age, while others feel that they don't 'fit' with typical boys and girls, but don’t know how to tell others about it, or what to do about it. Some people only become fully aware when puberty starts, but they may repress these feelings for many years.

Living with gender dysphoria

People who experience gender dysphoria are not mentally ill, but they often suffer great stress because they are hiding their identity.

When people start to change their gender role this is known as ‘transition’, which enables them to express themselves in line with their gender identity. They might choose a new name and wear different clothes. Some young people experiment with their gender expression so their choice of clothing, for instance, may change; this is a normal part of growing up.

Children who show gender variant behaviour don’t always grow up to be trans; sometimes they grow out of the feelings altogether, but they may also be gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Medical intervention

Young people who are distressed because their bodies are developing during puberty can be given treatment to stop these changes. The relief this provides helps them to make better judgements about how they want to live their lives as adults. If they wish, they can stop taking the medication at any time. It is safe, and its effects are reversible.

Once they’re a bit older, they may start taking 'cross-sex hormones'. Surgery associated with gender dysphoria (if a person chooses to have it), is never done in the UK before the age of 18.

How common is it?

The Gender Identity Research & Education Society (GIRES) estimates that about 1% of the British population are gender nonconforming to some degree. The numbers of trans boys and trans girls are about equal.

The number of people seeking treatment is growing every year.

Are trans people protected by the law?

The Human Rights Act 1998 protects the privacy and dignity of gender variant children and adults. This protects people from being called by the wrong name, or being mis-gendered, or being made to use the wrong toilets.

Unfortunately transgender people can face prejudice or bullying. The Equality Act 2010 (EA) protects those who are intending to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone changes to reflect their gender identity against discrimination and harassment.

Bullying, including online bullying for any reason, is completely unacceptable.

Transitioning from female to male - what it's really like

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

This page was last updated on 30 July 2016.

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