Gender crisis drives at least one child a week to seek out help
More than one child a week from Northern Ireland seeks professional help because they are confused about whether they are male or female, it has emerged.
The startling figures were revealed by Childline which said it held 59 counselling sessions last year with local children who said they were unhappy with their birth gender.
Childline is contacted for its services by kids as young as primary school age up to late teens.
The true number of children from Northern Ireland who seek help about transgender and gender dysphoria issues is thought to be much higher, as often young people don't record where they are from.
Young trans-people frequently told the NSPCC's 24-hour service that they had suicidal thoughts, had self-harmed or suffered from mental health issues, which often stemmed from abuse, bullying and a lack of support.
One 16-year-old boy who identified as a girl told Childline: "I hate my body and feel hopeless and frustrated by mental health services.
"It's really difficult to talk to my parents as they just don't understand. I can't cope with another year like this one."
Young people described feeling "trapped in the wrong body", and how they felt frustrated that they could not escape their biological sex.
Transphobic bullying often stopped the children from speaking out.
Many young people who were honest about their gender identity complained they received cruel abuse which left them feeling desperate.
Neil Anderson, head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland, said: "We cannot call ourselves a modern society if we stigmatise children just because they feel different.
"It is vital that children have support, otherwise, as they tell us all too often, they suffer.
"When a child is made to feel ashamed about who they are, it can trigger serious mental health issues and crippling shame.
"It's vital young people are confident that if they speak out they will be able to try and navigate these confusing and complex feelings without also having to fight prejudice and abuse," he added.