This column is written by Nicky Ferry, a training development manager at Gloucestershire Counselling Service in Stroud.

For more and more children and young people gender is becoming an increasingly important issue in terms of how they feel about their identity, sexuality and how they express themselves.

Interestingly, recent reports show that traditional gender stereo-typing is still highly prevalent in school-age children, yet these unchallenged stereotypes are linked with lower wellbeing. 

And last year, 6,000 calls were made to Childline from children and young people desperate to talk about their struggles with gender.

It is perhaps not surprising then that this generation of young people are pushing the boundaries and forcing us to explore issues around gender.

It is highly complex.

Many children are bravely seeking to subvert traditional roles and be referred to as neither male nor female, referring to themselves in the third person as ‘non-binary’. 

This could arguably be the most honest gender role to assume, given that perhaps we are all ultimately gender-neutral before a role or a label is placed upon us. Yet we all do live in bodies, within a community and are part of a culture, all of which strongly condition and seek to define us, calling us to express ourselves in gender-defined ways. 

Even if we are subverting our gender, it is very hard to escape being described as either masculine or feminine.

Even androgyny can be a loaded term and imply gender, through its very lack.

Some children and young people are questioning their gender because they are rejecting the traditional expectations and roles placed upon them – or they may just not feel happy within themselves for any number of reasons. 

Wanting to switch gender or subvert their gender in some way, could be in such cases be an act of rebellion or a cry for help.  

For others, they are very clear that the gender they were born into just doesn’t fit with how they feel about themselves and many go on to explore and identify as transgender.

 If you are a teacher, social worker, counsellor or likely to work with gender diverse children and young people, GCS is hosting a training day with Phillipe Beale on October 12 called Working With Gender Diverse Children & Young People.

For part of the afternoon a young adult will share his story and experience of child and adult gender services.

I would also recommend a visit to the Kiss My Genders art exhibition at London’s Haywood Gallery.

Contact Gloucestershire Counselling Service on 01453 766310 or see