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Looking after your mental health while exploring your gender identity

4 min read
11 July 2022

Jasmine, 17, explains how exploring your gender identity can affect your mental health and what you can do to look after yourself in the process.

From my own experiences, I know that your gender identity is not always an easy thing to understand or come to terms with. It can be a huge struggle to not know how you identify. You may know that you don’t identify fully with the sex you were born with, but on the other hand you may not know where you do fit in, or what pronouns or labels you prefer to use.

There is no rush to have a label so don’t feel like you need to find one immediately.

There's no rush to label yourself

Labels can be useful as a way to understand more about yourself and help others understand your experience of gender, however there is no rush to have a label so don’t feel like you need to find one immediately. It’s okay to not have a label - there may not even be one that fits how you identify. On the other hand, you may find more than one label that feels right for you. Over time, you may feel confident enough in your gender identity that you decide on a label that feels right for you, which is great. But equally it’s nothing to worry about if this journey is confusing or not as straightfoward for you! The same is true for deciding which pronouns (she/her, they/them, he/him etc.) you want to use for yourself.

Another important thing to note is that even if you feel confident in your pronouns and identity label at one point, you may discover more about yourself and feel that these have to change at another point. Don’t worry if this happens, as changing your pronouns or the way you identify is normal and valid as well!

Even if you feel confident in your pronouns and identity label at one point, you may discover more about yourself and feel that these have to change at another point.

How questioning your gender identity can affect your mental health

Questioning gender identity may impact your mental health in lots of ways, some of which may be negative. This could either be due to the pressure of finding the right label or pronouns, or feelings of invalidation from those around you. People may try telling you ‘what you are’ or they may tell you that you’ve got to be the sex you were born as, or alternatively judge your gender based off their assumption of you. But please don’t listen to them or think they’re right. You are what YOU are, not what anyone else thinks you are.

You may also find yourself lacking confidence in the way you appear. When I was questioning/experimenting with my gender identity, I had various negative thoughts about my image. Do I look too feminine? How can I look a bit more masculine? Should I wear more manly clothes? Should I change my posture? Am I really non-binary/genderqueer if I only shop in the women’s section? After a while, I felt different about myself, and realised that I don’t have to look any particular way for my identity to be valid. The label of genderqueer is what I feel most comfortable with and, at the end of the day, my gender identity is about how I identify, not about how others see me. I am who I am and no one can change that for me.

I don’t have to look any particular way for my identity to be valid.

Tips if you're struggling

If you’re struggling with your gender identity, whether that be not knowing how you identify or not being accepted by society, the best thing you can do is take lots of time to look after your mental health.

When it comes to figuring out how you identify, don’t be afraid to try things out and see how it feels. You could go clothes shopping and experiment with different styles, finding ones that you feel good in. You can also experiment with pronouns; maybe ask a close friend or someone you trust to address you with different pronouns, and gendered terms such as ‘handsome’ ‘beautiful’ ‘queen’ ‘king’, or even different forenames, and see which you feel most comfortable with.

Please also just know that whatever gender identity you have is 100% valid, and yes, you may face setbacks, but in the end you will turn out to be more confident in who you are!

Please also just know that whatever gender identity you have is 100% valid.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

Thanks for sharing your story Jasmine, 17

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