Some people feel that the gender they were given at birth is not the same as how they feel inside. So, for example, a girl might feel that really she is a boy or vice versa. For some, these feelings begin during early childhood, and for others it can start later - often during puberty.
The proper term for this feeling is gender dysphoria, and it can cause a lot of confusion and difficult emotions. Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness - it is a recognised medical condition, although its causes are not yet fully understood. But to be diagnosed with the condition a person must feel strongly that they are not the gender they have been brought up as.
Transitioning - living as my preferred gender
Sometimes people who are transgender (or trans for short) decide to live their life as their preferred gender. This is known as transitioning, and could involve changing the clothes they wear, having a different haircut or wearing makeup.
Some trans people make changes in order to look and feel as much like their preferred gender as possible. This can involve medical treatment such as hormone therapy. Hormone therapy can be used to delay the physical changes that occur during puberty until they decide for sure which gender they identify with. But hormone therapy can also be used to begin changing the body towards their preferred gender. In adulthood the person may opt for surgery to take this process further.
However, there are no rules as to what a person should do or how they should feel about gender. Not everyone who is trans seeks to become the gender they identify with - it is okay for us to live as we like and be who we want to be! Some people feel their gender is fluid - that it changes between male and female, and others don't identify with either gender.
So it really is just about getting to grips with who we are and learning to make the most of life.
What if I realise I want to transition?
Realising that we want to transition can be scary, confusing and daunting. We might be worried about who to talk to, how people will react and what to do next. But there is help out there for young people. It can really help to talk to someone in confidence about concerns and to have questions answered. Childline have a free helpline and their on-line forum is always open with friendly people ready to listen and answer questions, click here to go to their page.
Going to see a doctor to talk through treatment options is also a good place to start. Remember: conversations with health care workers, doctors and counsellors are confidential (this means they won't tell anyone what young people say in their appointments - or that thay have been for an appointment).
There are some rules for a person to be legally recognised as their preferred gender, if it not the same as the one they were assigned at birth. For details on the laws on this, click here.
Got more questions? Click on the FAQs below to be taken to more detailed info pages on trans topics:
How do I tell someone I'm trans?
How can I start transitioning?
My friend is trans. How can I support them?
Being trans is making me feel unsafe at home (or has made me homeless)
What do hormone treatments and surgery involve?
I'm being bullied because I'm trans