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Advice for parents and carers


LGBTQIA+ stands for

"lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual and many other terms (such as non-binary and pansexual)".

What’s the difference between Sex and Gender?

It’s easy to confuse sex and gender. Just remember that biological or assigned sex is about biology, anatomy, and chromosomes.

Gender is how you feel inside.

Gender is much bigger and more complicated than assigned sex. Gender includes society’s views & gender roles, which are expectations society and people have about behaviour's, thoughts, and characteristics that go along with a person’s assigned sex.

For example, ideas about how men and women are expected to behave, dress, and communicate all contribute to gender.

Sexual orientation and gender are important aspects of a young person’s identity. Understanding and expressing sexual orientation and gender and developing related identities are typical development tasks that vary across children and youth. For example, some young people may be unsure of their sexual orientation, whereas others have been clear about it since childhood and have expressed it since a young age.  Expressing and exploring gender identity and roles is also a part of normal development.   The process of understanding and expressing one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is unique to each individual. It is not a one-time event and personal, cultural, and social factors may influence how one expresses their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) young people experience various challenges because of how others respond to their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This is also true for young who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, or may be perceived as LGBTQIA or gender variant by others.   Some young people can experience negative experiences which include high rates of physical and emotional bias and violence; rejection by families and peers; and inadequate supports in schools, employment, and communities because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Stress associated with these experiences can put LGBTQIA+) young people at risk of negative health outcomes. Research shows that due to these environmental challenges, LGBTQIA+ young people are at risk for negative health outcomes and are more likely to attempt suicide, experience homelessness, and use illegal drugs.  These issues may also contribute to anxiety, depressive symptoms, and feelings of isolation. Young people who express their gender in ways that vary from societal expectations for their perceived sex or gender are at risk for high levels of childhood physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.  They are also at risk for school victimization.   At the same time, it is also important to acknowledge and build on the strengths, resilience, and factors that protect LGBTQIA+ young people from risk, such as connection to caring adults, peers, family acceptance and professional support.

Gender pronouns are words that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about them. The most commonly used pronouns are “he, him, his” and “she, her, hers.”

Some people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns. Usage of singular 'they', 'their' and 'them' is the most common.

Agender- Somebody who either feels they have no gender identity, or who identify not as male or female but ‘neutral.’

Bigender- a bigender person sees themselves as having two gender identities. The separate genders could both be male, or female, mixed or other – and may be felt at the same time or entirely distinctly. 

Butch- Used as both a noun and an adjective, this refers to a person who identifies as masculine (either physically, mentally or emotionally). The term is occasionally used as a lesbian slur, but has been reclaimed by some gay women and turned into a affirmative label.

Femme- Used by and for anybody who identifies as feminine, but more commonly associated with feminine-identifying gay women.

Transgender- a term for any individual whose gender identity is different from what is typically associated with their assigned biological sex at birth.

Cisgender- Pronounced "siss-gender", this refers to anybody who identifies with the same biological gender they were born with.  it could be seen as the opposite of transgender.

Polygender-Identifying with several different genders either at the same time or different times. Normally the term is given to those with four or more.

Nonbinary- Fairly simple, anybody who doesn't identify as simply female or male.

There are various other Gender Identities that have developed and this list is growing.

Bisexual- sexually attracted to both men and women

Heterosexual-a sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex

Pansexual- a sexual attraction to a person of any sex or gender pan is greek for all.

Lesbian- sexual attracted to women

Gay-sexual attracted to men

Questioning- exploring sexuality

Asexual- someone without sexual feelings

Polysexual- someone attracted to various genders and sexualities

Monosexual – is someone who is attracted to only one gender or sex

Bicurious – Interested in having a sexual experience with someone of the same sex

Demisexual - is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form an emotional connection.

Label Free – Label free/Sexual fluidity is the acknowledgement that attraction and desire is organic, unpredictable, and something that grows with a person, not something they commit to outright.

All parents/carers want what's best for their kids. But providing support isn't always easy — especially if you are the parent/carer of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQIA+) young person. In many ways no different from their peers, LGBTQIA+ young people face some unique challenges that parents often feel unprepared or unable to tackle. 

1. Let them know they are loved:

For many young people breaking the news to parents/carers is the scariest part of coming out. Young people often say: ‘Once my parents are behind me, I can handle anything else the world throws at me,’ You’re their anchor, and your acceptance is key. In fact, research shows that LGBTQIA+ adolescents who are supported by their families grow up to be happier and healthier adults.”

You don’t need to be an expert in all things LGBTQIA+ to let them know you care. There's no right or wrong way to express love just be present and be open even if you’re not sure what to say, something as simple as, “I'm here for you. I love you, and I will support you no matter what” can mean the world to a young person.

2. Encourage dialogue:

As you’re likely well aware getting young people  to open up can feel impossible. But be curious about their life, get to know their friends and what they like to do. Ask them how their day went and if they learned anything interesting.

These conversations may seem like no-brainers, but staying connected to a young person’s world makes it easier for them to approach you with bigger, more complex issues, like sexuality.

3. Learn the facts:

Empower your parenting with what experts know:

  • It’s not “just a phase.” Embrace — don’t dismiss — their evolving sense of self.
  • There is no “cure.” It’s not something that needs to be fixed.
  • Don’t look for blame. Instead, celebrate your child and all that they are.
4. Look out for signs of bullying:

Bullying is a problem for many young people but LGBTQIA+  young people  in particular are often targeted for being perceived as different. If you see any of these signs below then reach out to a teacher, professional or trusted adult.   Behavior change ( unsociable, withdrawn) Discipline or behavioral problems in school for example,  Declining grades, Unexplained absences, Sudden shift in friendship group and Engagement in risk taking behavior (e.g., drug use, offending, self harm).

5. Encourage healthy relationships:

As young people become teens it’s natural for them to develop an interest in other boys and girls their age.  Dating is daunting for most parents especially parents of LGBTQIA+  young people  but it’s an important part of adolescent development for all young people.  To keep them safe, be involved and stay connected by  encouraging young people to date in a way that's healthy and age-appropriate, you send a powerful message that LGBTQ relationships are healthy and there's nothing to hide or be ashamed of.



For the gay and bisexual community, support advice and information

Support U was born in 2010 following an increased demand for support, advice and guidance with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans* issues within Reading and the Thames Valley


Gender Identity Development Service is a specialist clinic for young people presenting with difficulties with their gender identity.


Switchboard LGBT+ helpline (opens in a new window)
A telephone service giving support advice and referrals to young people who may be confused about their sexuality, as well as providing advice on gay issues.
Helpline: 0300 330 0630 (lines open 10am to 10pm)


LGBT Foundation (opens in a new window)
The LGBT Foundation offer information and support.
Helpline: 0345 3 30 3030 (lines open Monday – Friday 9am - 9pm.

‚ÄčMermaids UK
Family and individual support for gender diverse and transgender children and young people.