A CHARITY says young people in Keighley should not be afraid to open-up about any concerns they may have over gender.

Leeds Childline issued the message after it revealed that last year, it carried out 257 online counselling sessions with children and young people in this region about gender and sexuality-related issues.

Nationally, the figure exceeded 6,000 – an average of 16 a day.

Most of those who contacted Childline were aged between 12 and 15, but more than 400 were 11 or younger.

The NSPCC-run service saw a 40 per cent increase in counselling sessions specifically regarding worries over coming out – from 1,508 in 2017-18 to 2,110 in the past year.

In Yorkshire & Humber, 93 sessions last year were about coming out.

Many youngsters said homophobic bullying had discouraged them from speaking out about sexuality or gender identity.

As part of Pride Month, Childline is raising awareness of LGBTQ+ issues among young people.

A spokesman said: “We want to remind all young people that Childline is confidential and here for them if they have any concerns about their gender or sexual identity.

“Some young people were desperately unhappy because they couldn’t talk to anyone about issues regarding their sexuality or gender, and turned to Childline because they feared they would lose their friends and be rejected by their families if they disclosed their feelings to them.

“I am glad that they felt able to talk to Childline and reveal their feelings without being judged or stigmatised.

“Some adults feel uncomfortable talking about these issues with young people, but if we create a taboo around them, that can make children feel guilty, rejected and in some cases has even led to depression and suicide. We all need to listen sensitively and support young people and protect them from this profound unhappiness and loneliness.”

Campaigner, Munroe Bergdorf, said young people shouldn’t be afraid of speaking out about their feelings.

“There’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQ+, expressing your gender or even being unsure of your gender,” she added.

Young people can call Childline on 0800 11 11, or visit childline.org.uk.