More than 300 counselling sessions have been delivered to young people about gender identity and sexuality in the past year, a charity has said.
NSPCC’s Childline delivered 305 such sessions in 2020/21 and in 170 of these young people mentioned coming out as a concern – an 11% increase from the previous year.
The children’s charity has around 370 volunteer counsellors at its Glasgow and Aberdeen bases who are available for sessions amid challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
One 12-year-old girl who spoke to Childline said: “I want to tell somebody that I’m gay but I just can’t find the courage to.
“I don’t want people to judge me or treat me any differently if they find out. Some people really hate gay people and I’m scared of what will happen if I tell someone.”
Another to speak to the charity, a 15-year-old who identifies as transgender, said: “I’m around my parents way more than I’m around my friends, especially now with Covid.
“My friends know about me being trans and they’re doing everything they can to make me feel comfortable, like using he/him pronouns and calling me by my preferred name instead of my birth name.
“My parents, on the other hand, hate my entire being and still refer to me as a girl, which hurts me so bad.”
The charity released the figures to mark Pride Month and to remind children and young people of the support available as restrictions ease.
Lauren Burke, Childline Glasgow team manager, said: “At Childline, we know that coming out or speaking about sexuality and gender identity can be really challenging.
“Many children and young people who have spoken to our trained volunteer counsellors have described their time under lockdown as a period of reflection, a chance to think about important issues in their lives, both recent and historic.
“Some children with sexuality and gender concerns revealed that lockdown had been particularly hard for them, as they’d been cut off from their usual support networks.
“Others told Childline that lockdown had given them the confidence and freedom to come out to their friends and family.
“No matter what a young person’s experience is with coming out or speaking about their gender identity or sexuality, at Childline we believe every young person has a right to be listened to and speak about any worries or questions they may have without feeling judged.
“If a young person feels unable to speak to a trusted adult in their life then we would encourage them to speak to Childline.”