Gender Identity and Gender Diverse Clients - Advice
This advice provides information regarding inclusive practice with and recording gender, for children and young people who are Child Protection clients and identify as transgender and gender diverse.
Document ID 2433, version 1, 20 September 2022
The purpose of this advice is to:
- provide an overview of gender identity and pronouns
- outline reasons why we record gender identity and pronouns.
- provide guidance and considerations for inclusive practice in identifying and recording clients’ gender identity.
The department recognises individuals may identify and be recognised as a gender other than the sex they were assigned at birth. Child Protection practitioners must consider gender identity when working with children, young people, parents, and carers.
See Gender diverse clients and recording gender identity – procedure for related tasks.
Gender identity and pronouns
Gender forms part of how people understand who they are and how they interact with others. Gender can be expressed in different ways, such as through behaviour, choice of clothing and physical appearance. Many people understand their gender as ‘male’ or ‘female’, while some people understand their gender as a combination of these, or neither. Some people’s gender identities change throughout their lifetime.
Transgender and gender diverse people are people whose gender is different to the sex they were assigned at birth.
Sex is assigned at birth, based on a person’s biological sex characteristics. Sex is different to gender. A person’s sex does not necessarily mean they have a particular gender, and vice versa.
A person’s sex can be male, female or intersex. Intersex means they are born with both male and female sexual characteristics. Intersex is different to gender diverse or transgender because it relates to a person’s physical sex characteristics, not their gender.
Pronouns are words used to refer to others and oneself and can be a way a person expresses their gender identity. Common pronouns used are ‘she / her’ and ‘he / him’. Some people use ‘they / them’, or other pronouns. People may indicate the pronouns they use for themselves by writing or saying them after their name.
Sexuality or sexual orientation describes a person’s romantic and sexual attraction to others. A person’s gender does not necessarily mean they have a particular sex, sexuality, or vice versa. Some examples of sexual orientation are heterosexual (attraction to others of the opposite gender), homosexual (attraction to others of the same gender) and bisexual (attraction to others of male and female genders).
LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual. This is an umbrella term used to describe anyone with diverse sexes, sexualities and gender. People who are gender diverse are part of this broader community.
More information on gender diversity and LGBTIQA+ terms can be found at:
Gender diverse clients
Children and young people who identify as gender diverse make up a small proportion of Child Protection clients, however the size of this cohort is growing. Some gender diverse children and young people experience discrimination, family rejection and violence, contributing to them being some of the most at-risk clients known to Child Protection. While identifying as gender diverse or questioning does not automatically mean they experience more harm, these children may face additional complexities and barriers to safety and wellbeing.
Recognition, appropriate response, and correct recording of a child’s gender can support with engagement, service provision and can add further important context to the child or young person’s identity and experience. For instance, correctly acknowledging a child or young person’s gender can allow for appropriate referrals to specialist services to meet the child’s needs. It will also support practitioners to provide a gender affirming environment, which can facilitate trust and meaningful engagement.
Services that may be considered for gender diverse clients and their families include:
- Drummond Street Services: Support, advice, advocacy and case management through its Queerspace Parents of Gender Diverse Children programs
- RCH Gender Service: Physical and mental health support for transgender and gender diverse children
- Zoe Belle Gender Collective: Advocacy, support and secondary consultation
- Transcend: Parent-led peer support for gender diverse children and their parents and carers
- The Rainbow Door: A free text and phone line for peer support and referrals
- QLife: A free phone line for peer support and referrals
Identifying, recording and engaging gender diverse clients
CRIS contains non-mandatory fields to identify and record a child or young person’s gender, where they self-identify, wish, or agree for their pronouns to be recorded. This information can also help with engagement, risk assessment and referrals.
Gender can be a personal issue for children, young people and their families. In some cases it may not be appropriate to ask a child or young person about their gender. Children may not wish to disclose their gender or have it recorded. They may feel confusion, worry about discrimination or about information being shared and recorded, or they may find questions about their identity intrusive.
When deciding if or how to ask questions about a child or young person’s gender, the following factors of safety, relevance and benefits must be considered before asking questions:
Relevance: If there is no existing information to indicate a child or young person is gender diverse, it may not be relevant to ask them about their gender. While it is good practice to remain open to new information that may suggest a child or young person is gender diverse, most children and young people do not identify as such.
Location and context: The presence of others may change a child or young person’s willingness to disclose their gender. There may be risks associated with asking the child in particular circumstances, such as in public or in front of others who may not be aware or supportive of their gender identity. Conversely, a child or young person may feel more comfortable if someone they trust is present for the conversation.
Language: The questions asked and language used is important when discussing gender. Children and young people should not feel pressured to discuss their gender but should receive opportunities to talk about it if they wish. Practitioners can do this in many ways, such as using gender inclusive language, reminding the child or young person about how their information would be used, and letting them guide the direction of the conversation about their identity. See Recording gender identity for gender diverse clients – procedure for some examples of how to start conversations with young people about gender.
Discussing gender with others
If a child or young person discloses their gender identity to Child Protection, they may not wish to disclose to particular people or in particular environments. Gender diverse children and young people may have reasons for not disclosing their gender identity with others, including their parents or carers. Information about a child or young person’s gender identity should not be shared with others unless the child or young person has confirmed another person is aware, or if sharing this information is necessary to avoid harm to the child or young person.
Parents and carers may also be wary of discussing a child or young person’s gender with Child Protection. When seeking information from families, carers or others, let them know that this information is used for the purpose of better supporting families and providing individualised services and referrals where required.
Sometimes, it is relevant for professionals to be advised of a child or young person’s gender identity for improved engagement and service provision. The child or young person’s views about sharing this information should be sought prior to informing professionals of personal information.
Recording gender on CRIS
Information about a child’s gender can be recorded in the Gender tab under the Identity section of a child or young person’s CRIS file. This should only be done once the child has directly confirmed their gender with a practitioner.
The child’s gender identity may also be reflected elsewhere on CRIS, such as through using their pronouns when referring to them in case notes and court reports. This must be done with the child or young person’s full consent, and full knowledge of how the information is stored and circumstances under which it may be released. Considerations should be made on a case-by-case basis regarding required confidentiality measures, such as identifying case notes to be redacted upon release, if required.
Gender can change and records on CRIS should be updated accordingly, with permission of the child, if a child changes their gender identification or pronouns during Child Protection involvement.