A teenager from the South West of England who came out as transgender at the age of 14 says he felt constantly agitated as a child, as it is revealed that Childline carried out 6,014 counselling sessions with children and young people about issues relating to gender and sexuality last year, an average of 16 every day. Among counselling sessions delivered by the NSPCC-run service, there was a 40 per cent increase in concerns about coming out, from 1,508 counselling sessions in 2017/18 to 2,110 in 2018/19.
Miles Everitt, 19, who lives in Cornwall says: “Gender identity had never been mentioned while I was growing up. At this point I wasn’t suffering, I was just constantly agitated and without thinking I would do things, even before I knew what trans was, that would present more masculinely. I accidentally developed a hunch to hide my breasts, and it’s stuck with me, and that’s something that will affect me for the rest of my life. I didn’t realise I was doing it to counteract what I couldn’t fix at the time.”
Miles discovered what being transgender was because of the TV and social media, and came out in a video he posted on Facebook, to mixed reactions from his family and friends. His mother has been extremely supportive of him and explained his gender identity to his headteacher. He said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better headteacher regardless of if I’d had this situation or not. By the next day, the teachers had had morning briefing and when I was in class at 9 am that morning, the register was called and the teacher called ‘Miles’. The headteacher had briefed every teacher in the school.”
During Pride month Childline is raising awareness of LGBTQ+ issues amongst young people, from understanding your gender identity, or sexuality to coming out and has been working with influencers and celebrities from Munroe Bergdorf to TOWIE’s Demi Sims.
Munroe Bergdorf, Model, Activist and Childline LGBTQ+ campaigner said: “There’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQ+, expressing your gender or even being unsure of your gender. No-one should ever make you feel like you shouldn’t exist because you feel differently to them.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that your emotions or feelings don’t matter because if you hear it enough it will break you. Find friends, teachers, parents or organisations like Childline who you can open up to and express any worries or concerns you have.”
The NSPCC wants to remind all young people that Childline is confidential and there for them if they have any concerns about their gender or sexual identity.
The transgender page on the Childline website has seen around an 80% increase in the number of page views between 2017/18 and 2018/19.
Miles, who will be studying at the University of Plymouth come September, said: “If someone is struggling with their gender identity, the first thing I would say is think about you. Think about what you want and what you think before you speak to other people about it because other people will always impact what you think and what you say regardless of whether you think they are going to. You need to decide what it is for you first. If people aren’t getting the support they require at school or at the doctors, Childline is always there. Schools have opening and closing times, Childline doesn’t.”
Children as young as 11 who spoke to Childline about their gender or sexual identity spoke about experiences of bullying and issues with their mental or emotional health.
One boy told counsellors: “I have been feeling depressed and suicidal for about three years. My parents don’t understand me at all. I came out as Trans and they think it’s just a phase and refuse to accept me. I am in pain.”
The most common age group to contact Childline about these issues were 12 to 15-year-olds, and 409 of the counselling sessions were with 11-year-olds or younger.
Another young person told Childline: “I’m getting bullied by people at my school because I am bisexual. They call me horrible names and tell me I should kill myself. I feel depressed about it all the time. I have tried talking to people about it for support but they just tell me I should ignore the bullies, which doesn’t help.”
Homophobic bullying was mentioned in 573 counselling sessions and can discourage young people from speaking out about sexuality or gender identity.
Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said: “I have met young people who were desperately unhappy because they couldn’t talk to anyone about issues regarding their sexuality or gender, and often turn to Childline because they fear they would lose their friends and be rejected by their families if they disclosed their feelings to them. So I am glad that they felt able to talk to Childline and reveal their feelings without being judged or stigmatised.
“I know that some adults feel uncomfortable talking about these issues with young people, but if we create a taboo around them, that can make children feel guilty, rejected and in some cases has even led to depression and even suicide. We all need to listen sensitively and support young people and protect them from this profound unhappiness and loneliness.”
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline seven days a week on 0808 800 5000, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Children can call Childline anonymously on 0800 11 11 or www.childline.org.uk any time of the day or night.