We are extremely saddened to hear of the death of 15 year-old trans boy Leo Etherington from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. Leo took his own life in May 2017 and an inquest into his death has recently taken place.
Media reports of the inquest suggest that Leo was supported by his family and friends.
The media also reported that Leo’s school said he could not change his name there until he was 16 (Wycombe High School has since refuted these claims).
There continues to be misinformation around making a name change, especially of young people aged under 16. This misinformation can create a huge amount of damage for young people who are unnecessarily blocked from their gender being recognised and validated. Many young people are unaware of their rights, even when they are supported by friends and family.
It is possible to change your name if you are aged under 16, with parental consent. In fact, as gov.uk says, you do not have to follow a legal process in order to start using a new name. The act of using a new name is the change of name itself.
However, in some circumstances you may need a deed poll (or a statutory declaration) in order to prove that a change has taken place. You can “enroll” your Deed Poll with the courts from 18, but in most cases this is not necessary.
If someone is a young person, getting formal evidence of a name change requires the consent of those with parental responsibility. Those over 16 can apply for a Deed Poll or Statutory Declaration themselves.
It is not necessary to have undergone any part of gender reassignment or medical transition in order to change your name and title.
Sometimes schools work on the false assumption that young people cannot change their name until some condition or other is met – for example, the child reaches a certain age, or until they attend the gender identity services for adolescents (NHS GIDS). This kind of assumption can be based on prejudices around the “correct age” at which a young person can self identify as transgender and make decisions about their transition. Young trans people continue to grow up in a society where they receive negative messages about not conforming to the gender expectations placed on them at birth. Many face bullying, discrimination and even violence. They experience high levels of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
It is vital that schools create a safe and inclusive environment for trans and gender variant young people. If you are a school and are concerned about the well-being of your trans students and/ or are keen to ensure that your school is inclusive of trans people, do reach out to us or other organisations that can support you.
You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Young trans people who do not have support and validation at home desperately need to feel safe enough to be themselves at school or college. If they cannot find support at home or at school, they find themselves in an incredibly isolated position.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please reach out for help. Talk to a parent, a teacher, your GP, a member of your faith community or a youth group leader. If you feel unable to do that, you can contact one of the UK helplines below:
Samaritans (08457 90 90 90)
Childline (0800 1111)
Call: 0800 068 41 41
SMS: 07786 209697
HOPELineUK is a specialist telephone service staffed by trained professionals who give non-judgemental support, practical advice and information to:
- Children, teenagers and young people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling
- Anyone who is concerned about a young person
Opening hours: Mon-Fri: 10am-10pm, weekends: 2pm-10pm & bank holidays: 2pm-5pm
In an emergency, phone 999 as soon as possible.
Prevention of young suicide: http://www.papyrus-uk.org/
Myths about suicide: http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-he…/myths-about-suicide