Gender Identity and Gender Therapy
As humans, it’s common to question and explore different parts of ourselves. For some of us, that questioning and exploring is done in the realm of gender. And at The Conseling Hub, our team of counselors wants to help you explore this realm through individual counseling and therapy.
Gender identity is unique to every person; there is no right or wrong way to express one’s gender. Gender exploration can take the a variety of forms, such as trying out different names, changing personal pronouns, or trying out clothing styles that result in feeling more comfortable. And although these practices are common, they’re not required to be ‘valid’ as a transgender or gender-nonconforming individual. Again, there is no right or wrongwrong way to express your gender.
*a quick note about language
Transgender (trans) is a term used to describe an individual that does not completely identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. On this page, we’re using “transgender” as an “umbrella” term for multiple other identities, such as nonbinary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, bigender, intersex and more. We’ll use the term “transgender” or “trans” for simplicity’s sake, but we realize that all folks won’t identity as trans and appreciate your understanding when reading. We see you.
Coming Out as Trans
Coming out can be a fantastic and empowering celebration of identity, both personally and socially. It can feel liberating to finally live authentically amongst those you know and love. And it can feel healing when your profession is met with acceptance and support.
For most people, however, coming out can be an extremely distressing and painful decision.
Relationships with family members, significant others, and friends have the possibility of changing because they might not understand or want to accept a new identity. Rejection about who you are from loved ones is devastating. Coming out as trans can mean losing home and job security. At its worst, coming out can put one’s safety at risk. \
Please remember, coming out takes an incredible amount of courage and vulnerability. However, waiting to come out also requires that same courage and vulnerability, although manifested in a different way.
What is gender therapy? What does gender therapy look like?
Gender therapy tends to look similar to the general counseling process, however, the topics discussed are generally focused on a person’s gender identity and the experiences that relate.
Some common topics:
talking about what your gender identity means to you
deciding to come out or coping with a negative reaction after coming out
dealing with gender dysphoria and the affects
questioning whether or not to transition and gaining resources on how
learning the outcomes of socially, medically and legally transitioning
goals of transitioning and how to attain them
addressing mental health concerns related/not related to gender identity
When you see a counselor for gender therapy at The Counseling Hub, you can absolutely expect them to use an affirming perspective and approach. This basically means that the process will always validate the individual’s gender identity. Similarly to general counseling, the counselor will provide encouraging support throughout sessions to promote progress and reach agreed-upon, collaborative goals.
Do you write gender-affirming letters for medical transition?
Short version is yes, we do! Coming in for a gender-affirmation letter looks a little different than gender therapy. Gender therapy is a longer-term experience, where on is focused on their own growth and development. Gender-affirming letters for medical transitions take place in a much shorter time frame.
In essence, when a trans individual wants to medically transition, doctors will often need a letter from a mental health professional. A counselor that works with gender identity should be able to provide a letter in order to further help their client to reach their goal of transitioning.
If you are interested in receiving a gender-affirming letter for medical transition, check out this page instead!
What does transitioning even mean?
It’s not uncommon for people to think of transitioning as gender-affirming surgery. In reality, transitioning can be gender-affirming surgery, but it is also so much more than that.
There are many types and ways that a trans person can transition.
And do you want to know something really important?
NOT ALL TRANS INDIVIDUALS CHOOSE TO TRANSITION.
Choosing not to transition does not make a trans individual less valid.
Further still, even when one decides to transition in whatever way they choose, there can be a sense of doubt or questioning. This is also absolutely okay! No matter how you look at it, transitioning is a big change.
Changes create stress, period. And big changes, whether they are deemed positive or negative, come with big stress. Counseling can not only provide information about transitioning, but it can also help you through that stress and make sure you feel supported throughout your process.
What is Gender Dysphoria?
Often, trans individuals do not feel completely comfortable in their body. Gender dysphoria can arise within trans people when there is a disconnection between their perception of themselves/their identity versus their biological sex.
Dysphoria does not only make a person uncomfortable, it can be extremely distressing and can affect all aspects of everyday life. It can be difficult to attend social situations or participate in activities. Sometimes, it’s even painful to look in the mirror.
Gender dysphoria can lead to a negative impact on a person’s mental health and well-being by creating anxiety and increasing depression, both of which can be related to an overwhelming sense of detachment with one’s body.
Individual counseling can help to create (and/or maintain) coping skills to decrease the uncomfortable and harmful symptoms of gender dysphoria.
Depression, Anxiety, and Other Mental Health Concerns
Trans individuals are 2x as likely to develop mental health concerns when compared with cisgender people (*cis = gender identity corresponds with biological sex). This can be for a variety of reasons, including invalidation, a lack of actual or perceived support, isolation, and feeling disconnected within oneself. All of the above increase the possibility of developing anxiety and depression.
It can be difficult to manage all of the experiences that trans individuals face on a daily basis, not least of which includes gender dysphoria, being consistently (or even infrequently) misgendered, blatant discrimination, and harassment.
These experiences can weigh so heavy on a trans person’s life that they may consider suicide. Trans individuals are 5x (five times) more likely to attempt suicide. This statistic is alarming and devastating on many levels. And while it can be a cause for concern, it’s also important to note that counseling can lessen those symptoms of anxiety, depression, and dysphoria, as well as lower the risk of suicide.
My child might be transgender and I don’t know what to do…
Gender exploration and questioning can begin at any age. As a parent, it can feel confusing, disconcerting, and difficult if your child begins to express or talk about their gender differently than expected. You might feel unsure of how to respond or what to do, and you might feel a sense of denial, anger, or grief. You probably also want to support your child, but you are unsure of how to do that.
Needless to say, it can feel overwhelming as a parent.
It’s important to note that reaching out for additional support when you’re child discloses a trans identity can be immensely helpful. In particular, counseling for parents can help you to explore how to navigate this journey with your child. Counseling can also help address questions and thoughts like…
Is there something I did?
Is this just a phase?
How do I support them?
How do I keep them safe from everything I’ve read/heard about?
What do I tell my friends?
Why am I so sad/angry/upset?
Please know that it’s okay to feel confused/overwhelmed/unsure/angry/sad/whatever else. It’s also okay if you don’t get it as of right now. It’s okay if you’re not sure how to act or what to do. Counseling can help you explore each of these things in such a way that your child feels supported and seen, and you have the space to deeply explore your own responses free from judgment or criticism.
My partner might be transgender and I don’t know what to do…
As the partner of a person who comes out as trans, you might feel unsure of what to do or how to cope. This is okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and it’s human to respond to a big change. Even if you are supportive, you might need to process how you feel, what you think, and what to do.
Counseling can be a great avenue for exploring things like…
How will this affect our relationship?
How does this affect me?
How will this affect my partner?
What if I am unsure of the changes during the transition?
How do I support them?
How do I care for myself without hurting them?
It’s okay if you also need support when your partner is questioning their gender or beginning the transition process. The future can be uncertain and uncertainty can cause anxiety. All normal responses. Counseling can be a safe place to explore, question, cry, and reflect. We’re here for you.