Supporting trans volunteers

How trans volunteers can be a part of guiding

Volunteers can come to guiding through a variety of routes.

Girlguiding recognises that our volunteers come from all walks of life and we'll always try to find a suitable role for them.

The first place to start with any volunteer is to have an open and honest conversation about background, skills, their reasons for wanting to volunteer and any support needs they may have. The motivations and expected benefits of guiding should always be discussed with potential volunteers before they start guiding.

A person’s gender history or gender identity isn’t a reason to stop someone from volunteering with us. If someone chooses to disclose they are trans, the implications of this can be explored with them, if necessary. You should never ask if someone is trans. Girlguiding will always respect the identity of the individual.

A trans volunteer will follow our usual recruitment process, just like any new volunteer. All compulsory recruitment checks and training, and any induction processes must be followed as standard. All volunteers are expected to register through our online membership system GO.

A new volunteer doesn’t have to disclose that they are trans – GO doesn’t ask for that information. Also, volunteers are not asked to provide previous names. Non-binary is not currently a gender option on GO (We are working on this section of GO).

Always use the person’s correct name and pronouns (for example, he/she/they). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be honest in conversations with a new volunteer. If you make a name or pronoun mistake when talking to a trans or non-binary volunteer, apologise and correct your use of their pronoun or name. Be sensitive and try not to dwell on your mistake.

What if I have concerns about whether an applicant is suitable to volunteer?

If you have any questions about the suitability of a volunteer, whether they are trans or not, you should discuss this with your commissioner. The team at HQ are also available to answer queries. In any discussion you must respect the confidentiality of the volunteer.

Disclosures process recommendations

Many of our volunteer roles will need a disclosure check (DBS, PVG, Access NI). Trans volunteers are required to undertake disclosure checks for relevant roles just like any other volunteer. This process may cause anxiety in a trans volunteer, as they may feel concerned about disclosing personal information such as information on previous names. For further support on this matter please contact the disclosures team on [email protected]

DBS – A few days before completing their application an individual should contact the DBS sensitive application team. This will ensure that any previous gender or name is not released on the DBS certificate, unless the applicant consents. They will also be able to answer any queries about completing the application form.
Telephone: 0151 676 1452 Email: [email protected]

PVG – When completing a PVG form an individual should only declare current gender and names. Any previous gender or names should be sent to Disclosure Scotland in a letter marked private and confidential that provides current and previous names, current address and National Insurance number.
Address: The Operations Manager, Disclosure Scotland, PO Box 250, Glasgow G51 1YU

Access NI – A few days before completing their application an individual should contact Access NI. They will need to provide details of previous names and current details to enable the correct information to be checked.
Telephone: 0300 200 7888 Email: [email protected]

Some Girlguiding roles are only held by women - such as unit leader. These roles are open to all women, including trans women and non-binary members who were recorded as female at birth, who can make their Girlguiding Promise.

Any volunteer wishing to take up one of these roles is expected to be a positive role model for girls and should have the skills and behaviours expected of a leadership role. These things are evaluated during the recruitment process and in conversation with the local commissioner.

When enquiring about volunteering with Girlguiding, all new volunteers will be asked simple personal information questions by our online membership system, GO. You should not ask if a volunteer is trans and it may be unlawful to do so.

The expectations for volunteers wishing to take on women-only roles are the same for all women leaders:

  • Complete the online enquiry form ticking the appropriate gender/sex selection (This section of GO is being reviewed)
  • Enter their preferred name - this is the name that will be used whenever in a guiding situation
  • Act as a representative of Girlguiding as a girl-only organisation and uphold our Code of Conduct
  • Want to benefit from, and contribute to, a movement of girls and young women who share and explore issues and experiences relating to growing up as a girl in today’s world
  • Wear Girlguiding uniform both in the unit meeting place and out in public

Girlguiding recognises that transitioning is a personal process and people will be at different stages in this process. So, we ask that any trans woman volunteer wishing to take on a woman-only role should be comfortable and confident in consistently meeting the requirements above.

Volunteers currently in women-only roles who disclose they are non-binary are welcome to stay in that role as long as they can continue to uphold the expectations listed above. Their experience and skills as leaders are valuable and should be retained wherever possible.

If they feel that they won’t be able to do this then we have several volunteer roles open to everyone that they may wish to find out about. See the section on current volunteers who are transitioning for more information.

Girlguiding has lots of roles that are open to everyone. It’s good practice with any new volunteer to have an open and honest conversation with them about roles, skills and availability. As part of that conversation, you can find out their preferred name and the pronouns that they’d like used. That way they’ll feel supported and you can work together to find the volunteering role that best suits them.

Please see our volunteer recruitment and vetting policy for more information.

If a volunteer tells you that they’re questioning their gender identity, or planning to begin their transition process, always start any conversation with sensitivity and honesty. Reassure them that you’ll support them through what could be a very stressful and challenging time. Ask open questions which allow them to share their thoughts and any concerns they have.

Girlguiding is likely to be an important support network for them and you should make sure they know that won’t change. To do this you can:

  • Offer reassurance
  • Tell them their confidentiality will be respected
  • Listen and be supportive
  • Ask them what their chosen pronouns are and then use them
  • Ask them how they’d like to be supported
  • Let them know that they can come and talk to you again, or recommend someone else they can speak to

You may also need to discuss:

  • How they feel about staying at the same unit
  • How this might affect the role they are in, if in a woman-only role
  • What may need to be updated on GO, for example name, gender selection, email. This can be done easily and doesn’t require any proof of identity or a Gender Recognition Certificate
  • Whether they might wish to take a break from guiding and come back later when the time is right for them
  • How – if at all – they wish to discuss this with the girls and other volunteers in the unit.
  • If they have another volunteer that they’re good friends with and can talk to
  • How they would like any possible questions from other guiding members handled or answered

It’s important to keep the volunteer’s support needs at the centre of this conversation and remember that transitioning is a process that's different for every person.

It might be useful to make a practical checklist or support plan with the volunteer according to what they feel is appropriate. You can build in review times to see how the volunteer is feeling and if the plan needs any changes.

It can be helpful to remind the volunteer that while we’ll make sure that they can still fully participate as a volunteer, the primary role of everyone involved in running guiding is the best interests of our young members. Help them to consider what support network they can access to give them the very best support going forward.

Volunteers currently in women-only roles

If a volunteer is currently in a woman-only role such as unit leader, and they disclose that they are planning their transition as a trans man, you’ll need to have an open and honest conversation. Talk with them about the role that they hold and when it would be appropriate for them to move on to another volunteer role. How and when a volunteer chooses to move into a new role should be planned with them and will be different in each case.

It’s likely that the volunteer will recognise when a woman-only role is no longer the right choice for them, and your plan should support that changeover.

The following expectations of a woman-only role can help with any discussion:

  • Use the appropriate gender or sex selection on GO (We are working on this section of GO)
  • Use your preferred name - this is the name that you will be referred to whenever in a guiding situation
  • Act as a representative of Girlguiding as a girl-only organisation and uphold our code of conduct
  • Comfortably and consistently wear Girlguiding uniform both in the unit meeting place and out in public

Many of the practical ways to support trans volunteers in everyday guiding activities are similar to those suggested for young members. Take a look at our advice on supporting young trans members and replace‘young member’ with ‘volunteer’, for more detailed and practical ideas on:

  • Going away
  • Sharing accommodation
  • Washing and toilet facilities
  • Privacy when changing
  • Activities and adventures
  • Going abroad
  • Guiding outside the UK

What else you should know

Code of conduct and policy

We have a volunteer code of conduct  in place as well as our policies which we expect all volunteers to adhere to. And there are procedures in place for addressing concerns about volunteers who may not be upholding those policies. These are updated from time to time and you should revisit them on a regular basis. See our policies pages for more information.

Media attention

We occasionally get enquiries from the media. If this happens, it’s important that you forward any queries from the external press to the PR team at HQ via your country or region communications staff member (if you have one). If you receive a press enquiry out of hours, please contact the on-call national press office on 07990 553940.