Supporting trans young members

Young trans members may be going through a difficult time, here's how we can support them to be a part of Girlguiding

Young trans members may be going through a time of great uncertainty, which can cause stress, anxiety and distress. Our primary concern is to do what is best for that young person. This means we need to listen to and understand that individual’s specific situation.

Begin by having an open and honest conversation with the young person and their parents or carers, if appropriate. Don’t assume that parents and carers will know that the young person is trans and check with the young person before you speak to them.

In this conversation, it’s unlikely that you’ll be discussing anything that they haven’t experienced or thought about before. And it will give them confidence to know that including them, and supporting them, is important to you.

Always try to involve and engage the young member in decisions about their experience of guiding. By having open conversations you'll gain confidence that you're doing a good job by making plans and decisions together.

If you’re supporting a trans young member, or a young member who may be questioning their gender identity, each situation will be different. It’s important to approach things on a case by case basis.

In the first instance you should go to your leadership team or commissioner. If you need any more advice at any point you can contact [email protected]

Confidentiality

Any information about a person’s trans history must be treated carefully, in line with the General Data Protection Regulation/Data Protection Act 2018 and Girlguiding’s Managing information policy.

Personal information for all members must be kept confidential. You must take care not to ‘out’ trans members by sharing details about their transition or history with anyone, including other members, parents or volunteers, who they have not already told. Doing so could place them at risk of discrimination and harassment and could be unlawful.

Irrespective of age, you should only tell other people that someone is trans if you’ve been given explicit permission to do so by the individual. Under GDPR, the sharing of personal data of children is given greater protection, so you need to take care to keep confidentiality.

Someone who’s over 18 may have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), but they don’t need to share it, or any information in it, with Girlguiding to demonstrate their gender identity, sex or trans status. If someone does have a GRC it would usually be unlawful to disclose their trans history without their consent.

If you need advice or information about a potential data breach contact our data protection team who'll be able to help you: [email protected]

Some Girlguiding members may be open about being trans, others may wish to keep this information confidential. Their decision must be respected and mustn’t be shared without their permission, regardless of their age.

Other volunteers, young members or parents of other children don’t have the right to know if a child or volunteer is trans, and confidentiality must be upheld to respect privacy.

There may be times where you’re making plans together and informing others becomes necessary - for example if the child wants to start using a different name and pronoun. Discuss this with the young person and decide what and how to share.

Trans children and their parents may want to talk to you to decide if and how to share their trans identity with other members of the group. If you’d like advice on this then please contact [email protected]

No Girlguiding young member or volunteer should suffer discrimination, harassment, bullying, victimisation or any other disadvantage because they are trans, are thought to be trans, or have a trans friend, family member or volunteer colleague.

Discrimination means treating someone less favourably than others because of a characteristic that they have, that they are thought to have, or that people associated with them have. In this case, we’re talking about those with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

Examples of discrimination include:

  • Not allowing a young member to go on a residential because they are trans
  • Insisting a young member must be picked up by their mother because their father is trans
  • Refusing to use someone’s chosen name and pronoun
  • Not allowing someone access to the toilets and facilities that align with their gender identity
  • Providing only clothing options that are unsuitable for trans people, for example not allowing a trans girl to wear a skirted swimming costume

Harassment is unwanted conduct, including sexual conduct, which violates an individual’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.

Bullying is repeated behaviour which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically.

Examples of harassment or bullying include:

  • Personal insults and threats
  • Personal and intrusive questions
    • about gender identity, such as asking if someone is a boy or girl, or if someone is a real girl/boy
    • about someone’s body
    • about medical interventions they've had or want
    • Inappropriate or non-consensual touching
    • Jokes and banter, whether directly targeted or not
    • Unnecessary or degrading references, including name-calling and deliberate use of offensive language such as 'tranny' or 'it'.
    • Silent harassment such as pointing, or staring
    • Excluding from activities, ostracising or ignoring
    • Spreading rumours, speculation or gossip
    • Intentionally and repeatedly referring to someone with the wrong name, pronoun or other gender identifiers
    • Online trolling and other online behaviours

Victimisation means treating someone less favourably than others because they have asserted their rights or helped someone else to do so.

An example of victimisation would be ignoring a volunteer’s request to take part in a residential because they had shown a trans woman colleague how to make a complaint about being refused access to the women’s toilets.

These behaviours and actions have no place in Girlguiding and should be robustly challenged if they occur.

The Equality Act 2010 and Girlguiding’s Code of Conduct underpin Girlguiding’s approach to making sure that discrimination, harassment, bullying and victimisation don’t take place and are effectively dealt with if they do.

A young member or volunteer has said they are being bullied, harassed, discriminated against or victimised - what should I do?

A young member or volunteer may be targeted for several reasons, including:

  • They’re trans
  • They don’t fit with traditional gender stereotypes
  • People think that they’re trans or they have trans friends or family

If they disclose this to you, they’ve come to you because they trust you and it’s important that you take any reports seriously.

  • Listen carefully and trust that what’s being said is correct
  • Offer support, understanding and reassurance
  • Let them know that what they’ve told you is in confidence, but you may need to pass on some information to keep them safe
  • Ask them what support they’d like from you, and if they’d like you to find them any extra information or put them in touch with another organisation
  • If they wish, agree on an action plan with them and give timescales for steps to be taken

Volunteers in my guiding area aren’t being inclusive of trans members or volunteers, what should I do?

We recognise that issues often arise around inclusion when people don’t understand that what they’re doing isn’t inclusive. We encourage volunteers to seek advice and support from their local leadership team in the first instance. If needed, you can contact your country or region team for advice and support.

Our expectations of adult volunteers and members are set out in our Code of Conduct as well as our charity policies. All members, including young members, are expected to uphold our values. These are updated from time to time and volunteers should revisit them on a regular basis.

In relation to trans people, volunteers must ensure they’re familiar with our Equality and diversity policy.

You can also signpost volunteers to this webpage to see how they can support trans members and find out more about gender identity.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to make guiding an inclusive and welcoming space for all young members and volunteers.

Where volunteers do not follow our expectations, we follow our procedures under the Managing concerns about adult volunteers policy.

If you feel your concerns are not being addressed, it may be appropriate to refer to Girlguiding’s Whistleblowing policy.

It's a safeguarding matter if a trans person, or indeed any member of Girlguiding, is being bullied, harassed or discriminated against. If you think this is happening, you need to follow our safeguarding protocols.

If there’s a safeguarding issue and the welfare of the young trans member is at risk, it would be acceptable to disclose their trans status in line with safeguarding protocols if it’s relevant to the situation. The needs of all young members involved in a safeguarding issue should be approached in a balanced and considered way.

If you have any safeguarding concerns about a young trans member or a volunteer, or if you need any advice or guidance, please contact Girlguiding's Safeguarding team on [email protected] or 0207 834 6242.

Please also see our Safeguarding policy where we lay out our commitment to the ‘Working together to safeguard children’ guidance (Revised 2018).

Being trans in and of itself isn’t a safeguarding risk and mustn’t be treated as such.

A young trans girl wishing to join Girlguiding will apply through GO. They and their parent or carer don’t have to disclose that they are trans, but they may wish to do so to make sure that they get the best support.

Transitioning is a personal process, so there may be instances where the young person isn’t openly trans at school or in other parts of their life. It’s important to ensure that guiding is a supportive environment where they can be themselves.

If a young person does disclose to you when joining, you might need to discuss where they are in their transition outside of guiding, as many of their peers from school or other activity groups may be in their unit. You could mention this, so they understand how this could affect them in other areas of their life. Our key aim is to enable them to make an informed choice about expressing their gender identity.

You should have an open and honest conversation with them to make sure they get the best guiding experience, make sure you know their chosen name, the pronouns they prefer and discuss what it means to be a member of Girlguiding. They will need to be comfortable and confident in doing the following, which we expect from all young members:

  • representing Girlguiding and their unit in different situations
  • wanting 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
  • wearing the Girlguiding uniform both in the unit meeting place and out in public

If you make a name or pronoun mistake when talking to a trans young member, apologise and correct your use of their pronoun or name. Be sensitive and try not to dwell on your mistake.

Talking with parents and carers about a young member’s status without having permission from the young person would be a breach of confidentiality, as they may not want their parents or carers to know.

You’ll need to discuss with the young person whether they’ve told their parents or carers. You may find that telling their parents or carers could be a cause of anxiety, so be clear that you won’t share anything without their consent.

As a girl-only charity we accept young members who are biologically female (under the protected characteristic of sex) and those whose gender identity is a girl or woman (under the protected characteristic of gender reassignment). This means that we would accept trans boys as new young members based on their sex. 

We don’t expect there to be many trans boys interested in joining Girlguiding as we are explicitly a girl-only organisation. However, everyone’s transition is different and guiding may be an important source of support for a trans boy.

It is important to have an open and honest conversation with the young person, and their parents or carers if appropriate, about what it means to be a Girlguiding member, what the young person wants to get out of a guiding experience and to explore whether Girlguiding is the right choice for them.

We would expect any trans boy wishing to join to be comfortable and confident in doing the following, which we expect from all young members:

  • representing Girlguiding and their unit in different situations
  • wanting 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
  • wearing the Girlguiding uniform both in the unit meeting place and out in public

As a girl-only charity we accept members who are biologically female (under the protected characteristic of sex) and those whose gender is a girl or woman (under the protected characteristic of gender reassignment).

A young person who identifies as non-binary (someone who does not exclusively identify as girl or boy) and was recorded female at birth would be welcome to join. They are likely to have friends and peers in their unit and a clear desire to be part of our girl-only charity because they see the benefit and support that will come from a girl-only space for them. When registering on GO a young person is not asked about their gender identity.

Girlguiding is open to non-binary young members who were recorded female at birth and who identify strongly enough with our girl-only space to feel comfortable and confident in doing the following:

  • representing Girlguiding and their unit in different situations
  • wanting 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
  • wearing the Girlguiding uniform both in the unit meeting place and out in public

Young people who identify as boys or non-binary and were recorded as male at birth are not able to join Girlguiding because Girlguiding is a girl-only space.

For new non-binary young members, who were recorded female at birth, it is important to have an open and honest conversation with the young person and their parents or carers if suitable. Discuss with them what it means to be a Girlguiding member, what they want to get out of a guiding experience, and explore whether Girlguiding is the right choice for them.

If you require further support or guidance please contact [email protected]

If a young person tells you anything about their gender identity, you should be aware that they may not have told many people, and that it’s a sign they trust you as a leader or volunteer.

You may be approached by:

  • A trans girl who joined without disclosing her trans history, who now feels comfortable to share that information
  • A trans boy, a non-binary person or someone who is questioning their gender who joined when they were presenting as a girl

What should I do if a young member tells me she is a trans girl?

Reassure her that her trans status or history isn’t a problem in guiding and you’ll support her as you do all members. Make sure she knows that she can tell you if anyone is not supportive.

The conversation should be treated in confidence and you should:

  • Offer reassurance
  • Tell the young member that her confidentiality will be respected in line with our usual ways of working
  • Listen and be supportive
  • Ask the young member how she’d like to be supported or if there’s any information she wants or needs
  • Let her know she can come and talk to you again or recommend someone else whom she can speak to
  • If appropriate, and with their consent, speak to her parents or carers for more information, if the young person feels that would be helpful to them

What should I do if a young member tells me they are a trans boy or questioning their gender identity?

If a young member tells you that they now identify as a boy, remember they can stay in guiding for as long as they wish. The welfare of the young person is important. We are a key support network for all our young members and this will be a period of challenge and change in their lives.

There may come a time when guiding is no longer the right place for them, and you should support them in that change when they are ready.

How, when and if a young member chooses to move on from guiding should be planned with them and will be different in each case. You could agree to review how the young person is feeling at different points and make changes to the plan as necessary.

Reassure them that their gender identity is not a problem and that they’ll be supported by guiding throughout this time of exploration and, potentially, of change. Make sure they know they can tell you if anyone is not supportive.

The young member may choose a different pronoun such as ‘he’ or ‘they’ - this should be respected.

This conversation should be treated in confidence and you should:

  • Offer reassurance
  • Tell the young member that their confidentiality will be respected
  • Listen and be supportive
  • Ask the young member what their chosen pronoun might be and where or when to use it, and then use it in those circumstances
  • Ask the young member how they’d like to be supported or if there is any information they want or need
  • Let them know that they can come and talk to you again, or recommend someone else they can speak to
  • Speak to them about the fact that it’s likely that they’ll recognise when Girlguiding is no longer the right choice for them, and your plan should support that changeover

A trans boy may stay with guiding for as long as they wish, up until the age of 18 (the age limit for all young members).

Remind them that they can become a volunteer with guiding from the age of 18 if they wish to continue to remain part of the charity. As an adult man, they would be able to take any adult volunteering role that doesn’t require them to make the Promise.

If a trans boy has partially completed an award such as Queen’s Guide or Duke of Edinburgh before they disclose, it would be acceptable for them to continue and complete the award.

Talk to them about the details of any award ceremony to make sure that they’re supported during that process and that any issues to do with the day such as wearing uniform and use of name are agreed in advance.

As an inclusive charity, we strive to ensure that all our members are supported to reach their full potential, and this includes being active and adventurous.

Speak to the young trans member well in advance of going away to discuss different aspects of the residential. Find out what would make them most comfortable and supported - try not to make assumptions. Having open conversations in this way will give them confidence that their inclusion and support is important to you. And you will gain confidence that you are doing a good job by making plans and decisions together.

We recommend that you involve all young members in planning residentials, so each young person has the chance to explore their individual needs and a balance can be found that works for everyone.

For young trans members, there are some practical things you could do to make sure that they are able to fully participate in residential guiding activities. Completing a support plan with the young person and their parent or carer may help to assess their needs, find solutions and identify any risks to them and their privacy.

Discuss the practical ideas and see what will work – they may have an even better idea.

Sharing accommodation

Any young member can request an alternative accommodation arrangement. And as with all young members, trans young members can share accommodation with other young members. If any young member feels uncomfortable sharing accommodation, an alternative option should be provided where reasonable and practicable to do so.

If you’re making these arrangements for a young trans person, this should be done discreetly, in conversation with the young person and, if appropriate and agreed by the young person, their parent or carer.

Practical ideas:

  • Ask them who they know well and would be happy sharing with
  • Provide more than one tent for groups
  • Choose venues with different sized rooms for choice, for example singles and dorms

It’s the role of volunteers and leaders to lead and manage conversations and planning to ensure that all young members can take part in the residential in line with Girlguiding’s safeguarding and risk assessment policies and procedures. This includes managing the requests of any young member who may not wish to share accommodation with other young members.

Toilet, changing and washing facilities

You may not have a lot of control over the facilities in your meeting place, but there are some practical ideas that can apply in both unit venues and residential settings.

Trans members must be supported to use the facilities that accord with their gender identity - trans girls may use girls’ toilets and changing rooms wherever possible. Where more private, individual or mixed-gender facilities are available they should be offered.

This is an option for all young members should they wish or request them. Your role is to make sure trans members know about this option and feel able to access it.

The use of gendered facilities, such as toilets and showers, can be a cause of anxiety for trans young people. Talk to the young person about what would be most comfortable for them and what would make them feel safe. A young person may wish to have more privacy when changing at a residential event and for activities too.

Planning together will make sure that trans young people don’t avoid using the bathroom or feel singled out in any way. You can always review the plans during the residential to see how everything is working and if any adjustments need to be made.

Girlguiding expects all young members to behave in a mutually respectful and appropriate way when using shared facilities.

Practical ideas for toilets and washing:

  • Find venues with self-contained individual cubicle toilet options
  • Try to ensure at least one self-contained gender-neutral facility is available. This makes provision for non-binary young members and supports any young members who wish for more privacy. If there are no gender-neutral facilities, find out if the accessible toilet can be re-designated as a toilet for all - gender neutral and accessible
  • Find venues with single cubicle showers as these provide privacy for all
  • If showers are more open, stagger shower times so all young people get enough privacy or can shower on their own

Practical ideas for changing areas:

  • Find a venue with single cubicle changing spaces
  • If changing is more open, get practical and make partitions with sheets or screens so all the young members can get some privacy if they want it
  • If changing is more open, stagger changing times so all young people get enough privacy or have space to change on their own
  • Find or designate another private space for changing

If you need more support, get in touch with [email protected]

As with any of our young members, some trans young members may not feel comfortable with certain physical activities at weekly meetings or at residential events. Let them know in advance what the activities might be and make plans together, so they can make an informed decision about what they take part in.

You could provide options to help with this if the young person is unsure about taking part in an activity, discuss things in advance and find out what they would like to do as an alternative. Ideally, if an alternative activity is being provided, this should be made available to all young members to make the event more accessible for everyone.

Water-based activities may make lots of our young members feel nervous because of wearing swimming kit - and this can also cause anxiety in young trans members. Other activities that may need to be discussed in advance might include those that include physical contact, or that highlight physical differences like using climbing or abseiling harnesses.

It may be important to discuss with a trans young person whether the instructors leading the activity will need to be told that the young member is trans in advance - for example if specialist equipment is needed and will need to be fitted. This could help avoid anxiety in the young person if it's discussed in advance.

An essential part of guiding is giving young people the option to challenge themselves in a safe and supportive environment. No young person should ever feel forced to take part in something that distresses them. The best place to start is by discussing the activities with the young person in advance and coming up with a plan together. The more they understand the potential for achievement, the more they may feel able to take part.

Going overseas is an exciting, challenging and often enriching experience for members. But some countries have laws which discriminate against or persecute lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people. And even if the law respects and protects trans people, the attitudes and behaviours of others may not.

Be aware of the local culture when travelling abroad and find out in advance what the laws and attitudes are towards members of the LGBT community. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provide advice for LGBT people on travelling abroad, and what to do if you encounter problems overseas.

In some countries being LGBT is illegal. If you have any LGBT young members, and you can decide on the destination, you should choose a country that everyone can access safely. It wouldn’t be appropriate and could be discriminatory, to take a group abroad but to state that LGBT members can’t go because it isn’t safe.

If you’re worried about negative attitudes or behaviours you might encounter overseas, you should have a frank and honest conversation with the member about their own personal safety. There may be some situations where the risks of taking part are too high.

Things to be taken into consideration and discussed in advance with the member include:

  • Laws of the country being visited and risk to safety and security
  • The approach someone wants to take to keeping their trans identity private, and the practicalities of that
  • Whether it’s safe to talk openly about their gender identity
  • Possible issues at borders or when entering the country if their gender marker in their ID or passport doesn’t match their gender expression – they could possibly be denied entry
  • If they need to access healthcare – a medical telephone service with LGBT training may be a safe option
  • Whether anyone else in the travelling group needs to know about their status for their safety and wellbeing

Make a personal safety plan with them to mitigate the above risks, and ensure they’re fully involved in the decision-making. Try not to make assumptions. Depending on those decisions you might need to make sure that other young members and volunteers are aware of their behaviour and language while travelling to avoid ‘outing’ the trans member.

Trans people may not have passports that reflect their gender identity. This might make taking a trip abroad more stressful for them. For example, they might feel the need to change their passport in advance, or they may have concerns about going through passport control. The Passport Office provides more information for trans people on applying for a passport. Young people can only change the gender marker on their passport with consent from their parents or carers.

For bespoke support contact [email protected]

Leaders and volunteers from British Girlguiding Overseas (BGO) and branches should adhere to Girlguiding UK policies and procedures, but we recognise that this can be challenging in some overseas countries or regions.

Girlguiding UK policies are underpinned by UK legislation and where possible they should always be upheld as standard guiding practice overseas. If you need support with upholding guiding policy when it conflicts with local legislation, we ask that you contact UK HQ so that we can work together to agree what’s appropriate alongside local laws.

You can contact the international team at Girlguiding HQ for further support: [email protected]

All our young members must be supported appropriately, and their wellbeing, health and confidentiality must be at the heart of everything we do in guiding.

You’ll need to discuss with the young person whether they’ve told their parents or carers they are trans. If appropriate, the parents of trans members can be assured of our inclusive position and informed of our Equality and diversity policy and the guidance that’s available.

You can reassure parents that Girlguiding is a safe and welcoming organisation and bullying of any kind will not be tolerated.

It would be a breach of a young person’s confidentiality to discuss the young member’s status with their parents or carers without having permission from the young member first, as the young member may not want their parents or carers to know they’re trans. You may find that the young member is anxious about telling their parents or carers, so don’t disclose anything without their consent.

We want all our units to be a safe and welcoming place for all our young members. It’s important that volunteers do not discuss private and confidential information with other parents. Under data protection law, the status of a young trans member is confidential and must not be shared without their consent, this includes informing parents of other girls in the unit.

Some parents might have questions about gender and gender identity, so we recommend you signpost them to this guidance. All parents should also be directed to our Equality and diversity policy, alongside all other policies, so they can make an informed decision about their child being part of our great charity.

Parents can also get in touch with us if they have any specific concerns or questions. Let them know they can contact the info team on [email protected] or 0207 834 6242.

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.