Finding information for parents and carers of young trans and gender-diverse people

For most parents and carers we talked to, finding information was very important for supporting their children. In this section, you can find out what they said about:
  • Sources and quality of information;
  • Websites and social media;
  • Online support groups and forums;
  • Magazines, books and television programmes; and
  • Reading international guidelines.

Sources and quality of information

Kate talked about lack of information and how information should be easier to access.

Most parents had used different sources of information including: websites, YouTube videos, books, podcasts, magazines and talking to other parents and trans people. VM said that they had ‘trawled through’ lots of websites in search of information and this had been a ‘poor’ experience. Some parents talked about wanting different types of information. VM said she didn’t want to read information and instead wanted to talk to a person.
Parents often spent a lot of time looking for information, especially when they first found out that their child was trans or gender diverse. Looking for information could be a long and ongoing process, as Adele explained: ‘it wasn’t just a one off thing… it was over sort of weeks, you know, days, weeks, months and continuing going back to it.’ Similarly, Kate said: ‘I know that there is loads that I don’t know.’
The parents and carers we spoke to had concerns about the quality of information available. Some thought that there was lack of balanced information available. For that reason, they described it as sometimes difficult to trust the information that is out there. A couple of parents talked about having access to academic research articles about trans issues and health. One of these parents thought that reading research articles can be confusing, as there are many different opinions about trans issues. Elijah talked about having to ‘shop around for a different point of view’, and Lesley also wanted to get information ‘from as broad a view as possible’.
Many also thought that there was not enough information available to them on various NHS websites and that there was need for more reliable resources online.  However, other parents and carers we spoke to thought that there is not enough information on the official NHS and Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) websites. For some, like Kate, the information that was there was too general: ‘I tried… [NHS.UK]… And there’s not a great deal.’
For some parents and carers looking for information online was a distressing experience, because they learnt about discrimination and violence against trans people and worried that this might happen to their children.

VM said she found it upsetting to look for information online because there was a lot of information about discrimination and violence against trans people.

Leigh worried about a group she felt was anti-trans and the information that they give out. She shared: ‘There’s a lot of work out there that looks legit… There is a group of anti-trans adults out there who have created their own toolkits, basically saying, don’t support the child in their preferred gender, keep ’em as their birth gender, you know, and it looks very professional. And the scary thing is, if schools access this they’ll think it’s the right thing to do.’
Some parents thought that with so many different sources of information online, it was easy to find something that reflected their own beliefs and views. E said that the kind of information that somebody finds depends on their point of view on treatment for trans children. In her words: ‘It depends on your point of view as well… It depends… if you’re more critical of the kind of current direction of you know, the whole gender issue and treatment issues. And… you look at different things… People have different views on it.’

Websites and social media

Lesley talks about finding a broad range of information on trans issues.

The most important source of information for parents was the internet. Many parents we spoke to praised the website of the charity Mermaids. Andrew explained, ‘If you go on the Mermaid’s website, there’s lots of information’
Some parents followed and participated in debates on social media (such as Twitter) on trans issues and health. Other parents watched YouTube videos made by trans young people, listened to podcasts and read blogs about trans issues. Elijah had read some blogs written by therapists. With YouTube videos, Lesley said that she found being able to see a real person talk about their experiences of being trans very reassuring. The parents and carers we spoke to often looked for information from many internet sources to get a more ‘balanced view.’

Adele thought watching YouTube videos by trans people was informative, realistic and reassuring.

Online support groups and forums

Parents and carers also got information from talking to other families online. Many said that they particularly valued finding out about other people’s experiences through online forums and support groups for parents and carers , such as the one run by the charity Mermaids. They found it helpful to read or hear about the experiences of other parents.
The forums were also a place where parents and carers could ask questions and get advice from others. Online forums provided practical information that many parents thought was less available from the official websites of GIDS and the NHS. Describing the Mermaids forum, one father (Ross) said: ‘all the information I needed was on the forums. I would ask and within ten minutes, three or four people would reply.’

Oonagh talked about a range of online sources of information that she found useful.

Lisa talks about information she got from Mermaids.

A couple of people expressed concern about relying mainly on information from organisations like Mermaids though. Elijah said he disagreed with the organisation and felt ‘you should look at broader and different points of view.’ Richard didn’t feel that he got any new or additional information from these websites other than what he knew already. Kate felt that although Mermaids “should absolutely exist”, but that people should not have to rely on charities and support groups for information. She felt official sources such as NHS should provide more complete information.

Magazines, books and television programmes

Other sources of information about being trans or gender diversity that people talked about included magazines, books and TV programmes. Lesley found books helpful. Georgina thought the documentaries she had watched were easy to understand. Having printed copies of magazines meant she could show them to other people too.

Magazines and TV programmes were a source of information about gender identity for Georgina.

Reading international guidelines

A few people talked about finding information online from countries outside the UK. This allowed them to compare things like the services and support available. One parent said she read websites and guidelines from other English-speaking countries. Elijah said he tries to avoid American websites though, as they could be quite extreme and religious in tone.
Parents and carers used the internet to find and access official guidelines from the NHS and other health services around the world and resources such as World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care.
Trans healthcare and how it is delivered is different across the world. Some people found reading trans healthcare guidelines from other countries helpful. Reading about guidelines in other countries, some parents and carers thought that the NHS model of care for trans and gender diverse children and young people was not affirming enough. Not everybody we talked to felt that way though: Elijah who does not accept his child’s gender identity, felt the NHS website material was ‘stacked very much on the affirmative side’ and should, in his view, be ‘more balanced.’

Interview 1 thought the NHS model of trans healthcare was not affirmative enough.

Getting information was important to parents and carers, as was finding sources of support.