For families and friends
Many young people explore and question their sexuality and what gender they identify with. It is normal for them to do so.
If a young person has confided in you, ask them how you can support them.
It is against the law to try to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Someone’s sexual orientation is the inherent way that person experiences emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to other people. This could be towards people of a different gender, the same gender, more than one gender, or none.
This is different for everyone and there are lots of ways to describe sexuality – as well as gender. The physical features that someone was born with do not necessarily determine their sexual orientation.
Young people exploring, questioning, and affirming their sexual orientation can experience a range of stressful experiences. Families and friends can have a major impact on their wellbeing.
Young people with families that fully support their sexual orientation have better overall health, mental health, higher self-esteem, and are more likely to believe they will have a good life as an adult.
Gender identity is different to sexual orientation. Gender identity is someone’s personal sense of being female, male, a blend of both or neither.
The physical features that someone was born with do not necessarily define their gender.
There are numerous identities within the gender spectrum, including male, female, a mixture of both, no gender, a fluid gender, or another gender.
Families can have a major impact on the wellbeing of trans and gender diverse young people.
Trans and gender diverse young people with families that fully accept their gender identity have better overall physical and mental health, higher self-esteem, and are more likely to believe they will have a good life as a gender diverse adult.
We recommend reading
headspace’s guides for family and friends:
The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne’s Gender Service:
- the hospital’s Gender Service aims to improve the physical and mental health outcomes of children and adolescents who are trans or gender diverse.
- gender dysphoria fact sheet: the distress felt by people whose sense of being male or female differs from the gender they are assigned at birth based on their sex
- understanding gender diversity: kids info podcast for parents
Parents of Gender Diverse Children
What are change or suppression practices?
To fall under the Act’s definition of a change or suppression practice, the conduct must include three elements. It must be:
- directed at an individual
- because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
- undertaken with the intention to change or induce that person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.
What is allowed?
It is completely legal – and encouraged – to undertake activities that support or affirm someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including:
- assisting a person who is undergoing a gender transition
- assisting a person who is considering undergoing a gender transition
- assisting a person to express their gender identity
- providing acceptance, support or understanding of a person
- facilitating a person’s coping skills, social support, or identity exploration and development.
Medical and psychological treatment – in line with professional standards – that are necessary (in the health service provider’s reasonable professional judgement) are also legal.
- providing a health service
- complying with the legal or professional obligations of the health service provider.
Questions for families and friends
Rainbow Door is a free specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their family, and friends.
Contact: 1800 729 367 or 0480 017 246 (SMS) or email@example.com
Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council is a national body that advocates for the rights of multicultural and multifaith LGBTIQ individuals and communities and provides referrals to existing services, community groups and agencies.
eheadspace provides information and support about mental health and wellbeing to young people 12 – 25 and their families and friends.
Contact: 1800 650 890
Transcend Australia works with parents, carers and their children to support, affirm and celebrate trans, gender diverse and non-binary children.
See ‘Have you experienced a change or suppression practice?’ page for a full list of affirming, LGBTIQ, crisis and mental health support services.