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Exploring your identity online

Questioning your identity, whether it’s questioning who you are, who you fancy or your gender, can feel lonely and scary.

If you are questioning or are feeling uncertain about your gender or sexual identity, you are not alone.

You might not feel ready to open up to people in your life and the internet can help you get information and answers.

Gender identity is how someone thinks of their gender whether male, female, non-binary or something else. 

Sexual identity refers to a person's attraction to other people. This may be someone who identifies as gay, straight, bisexual or something else. 

Read Stonewall’s glossary to find out more about LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) terms.

Identity and the internet

You might feel more confident online because:

  • you’re more able to be yourself
  • you can find helpful information and guidance
  • you can explore, learn and ask questions in a safe and private way
  • it’s easier to talk about things like sex, gender or relationships online than offline
  • you can find other people who are going through similar experiences who you relate to

While the internet can be a great space, some LGBTQ+ young people experience negativity online.

Young people exploring their gender or sexual identity should not have to face online sexual harassment or bullying. Tell an adult you trust or speak to a support service for help if this is happening to you.

Here are five things you should know to make exploring your identity online more enjoyable: 

  1. You can control of the information you share. Privacy settings can help give you control over what you information you share online. You should never feel pressured into sharing information you are not comfortable with.
  2. It is easy to make a fake online profile. It can be hard to know exactly who you are talking to online. Be careful when sharing your location or agreeing to meet up with someone you’ve only met online. Read our advice about meeting up with someone you met online.
  3. People should respect you, your thoughts and feelings. Everyone has different thoughts, opinions and experiences and people should be treated equally, with respect and kindness. It’s never okay for someone to threaten or abuse you.
  4. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If someone makes you feel worried or upset you can block users and tell a trusted person who can help you. You do not have to say yes to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. If someone pressures you to share a nude image, you can report it to CEOP.
  5. There is always help available. Tell a known and trusted adult (like a  family member or teacher) if you are uncomfortable or need help. There are also lots of organisations listed below that can provide guidance and support.  

Who can I contact for help and advice?

Childine have sexuality & gender identity online message forums where you can share experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

Childline also has web pages with further information about sexual orientation and transgender identity. You can also talk to a counsellor at Childline about anything at any time, for free on 0800 1111.

Young Stonewall provides information and advice on issues that affect LGBTQ+ young people. Visit www.youngstonewall.org.uk or call 08000 502020.

Offering advice and support to LGBTQ+ young people in Scotland in particular, the site has lots of useful information and advice for LGBTQ+ young people. Call 0131 555 3940.

Services for trans young people aged 13-25 across the UK.

A charity for adults and young people affected by homophobia and transphobia.

 A national network of LGBTQ+ groups, projects and organisations with information on local LGBTQ+ services. Select ‘Provides services for Young People’ to find services locally.

Free, confidential sexual health information and support services for young people under 25.

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If you are under 18, report online sexual abuse to one of our Child Protection Advisors at the CEOP Safety Centre.

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If you're over 18, call 101 to speak to your local police. 

In an emergency

If you're ever in immediate harm or danger: 

  • Call the police on 999 straight away
  • Tell an adult you trust who will be able to support you through a difficult time

Talk to someone

Childline logo

Free, confidential support online and over the phone for young people under 19.

www.childline.org.uk

Call 0800 1111

The Mix logo

The Mix is a charity that provides free information and support for under 25s.

www.themix.org.uk

Use their crisis messenger by texting THEMIX to 85258.

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