therapy for the trans community

Therapy for the Trans Community

(Disclaimer #1: I am not a transgender person., although I do specialize in providing therapy for the trans community. The information provided here is what I have learned from people in the community. This post will include numerous links to resources where you can connect directly with trans folks who are best able to speak to trans issues.)

What does transgender mean?

The LGBTQ+ community is a mix of individuals who don’t quite fit in the mold of a heteronormative society. It’s very important to understand though that some of those labels (gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc) are referencing who a person loves and who a person is sexually attracted towards.

Even though Transgender is in the LGBTQ+ acronym, it is not about sexual attraction, it is about gender identity – which is an entirely different topic. We live in a world where, generally, if you’re born with male or female physical characteristics (this normally references the type of genitals you have when you’re born), you’re assigned a gender.

A baby born with a penis is “male”, a baby born with a vagina is “female”, etc. Simple as that, right?

Wrong.  

Over the years, we’ve learned that this method of assigning gender is extremely limited, and is not reflective of biology, psychology, or the nature of the world we live in.

Something I learned from a therapist mentor of mine that has stuck with me over the years: “the most important aspect of gender is what takes place inside your brain.” The type of genitals you’re born with has very little to do with your gender.

If you want to learn more about how I help trans clients in therapy, check out our podcast episode:

“Transgender” may feel like a term that is increasing in popularity, and that we have more trans people now than we used to. That’s incorrect. Trans people have always existed throughout history but have suffered the fate of being minimized and erased from our memory.

Another term that is important to learn is “cisgender.” Cisgender simply means that you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth. If you’re “cis,” that simply means that you’re not “trans.” (Let’s take a moment to recognize those who are nonbinary, agender, etc. Some in the gender diverse community don’t use either gender label, and that’s totally valid.)

Let’s talk about how to know if you’re transgender, what you should do if you believe you’re transgender, and how to find a trans-affirming therapist who can assist you with the process of self-identification and leading a life that brings you happiness!

How do I know if I’m trans?

(Disclaimer #2: The indicators provided are not comprehensive. You do not have to identify with any or all of these to be transgender. I believe this list is a helpful place to start, but every journey is different. Every person’s relationship with their gender is unique.)

Here are a few indicators that you might be transgender:

  • Experiencing body dysphoria
    • Body dysphoria is when the body you are in, or some aspect of that body, doesn’t feel like the body you should be in. Anyone can experience body dysphoria, but it is frequently experienced by those that do not feel their physical body or parts/traits reflects who they are internally or how they would like others to experience them.
  • Not feeling represented by your assumed gender
  • Feeling like other people are lucky to be born a different gender
  • Anxiety or dread when people expect you to behave like your assumed gender
  • Feeling anxiety that someone might catch you behaving outside of gender norms
  • Feeling you don’t fit in anywhere
  • Feeling curious about, or more at home in, clothing not typical for your gender
  • Noticing discomfort in your gender, even from a young age
  • More strongly relating to people and characters of a different gender
  • Fearing the changes that come with puberty

Ultimately, the question is this: do you feel that the gender you were assigned at birth is correct? If you’re not confident in the answer, here are some steps you can take to find support as you begin the process of exploring the question of your own identity!

What should I do if I’m transgender?

Here are a few suggestions I make for clients who ask me for advice:

  • Pursue opportunities to present according to your gender identity, taking baby steps where you can
  • Begin the process of embracing your true gender identity
  • Find an affirming community
  • Stay curious about the things that feel affirming
  • Find a trans-affirming therapist
  • Listen to lived experiences of trans people
  • Challenge internalized transphobia
  • Give yourself permission to be happy with who you are 
  • Be kind to yourself during the process. It’s okay to take your time.

If you decide to seek support from a therapist as you embark on this journey, it is critical that you find a trans-affirming therapist. Although there are a lot of therapists who provide therapy to the trans community, not all do (and not all therapists are trans-affirming).

Why is it important that I find a trans-affirming therapist?

  • You deserve a space that allows you to practice safe exploration of your gender identity
  • You deserve to work with a professional who believes you
  • You deserve someone who lets you be the expert on you
  • You deserve someone who supports experimentation without judgement

How do I know that my therapist is trans-affirming?

  • They’ll say so (on their website or social networks, trans-affirming therapists will self-identify themselves)
  • They have lived experience (they are transgender themselves)
  • They have learned directly from trans people
  • They are recommended by trans people
  • They’re knowledgeable and non-judgmental
  • They are connected to community resources

What does a trans-affirming therapist help with?

(Disclaimer #3: Trans people are just people. The trans community is not a monolith, nor are the issues they work through in therapy 100% isolated to the topic of being transgender.)

  • Physical safety
  • Early childhood experiences
  • Family trauma
  • Religious trauma
  • Relationships
  • Boundary setting with non-confirming people
  • Self-discovery of your true identity

In a binary world that has little room for exploration of gender identity, coming out as trans can be very scary. As a trans-affirming therapist, it is an honor and a privilege to work with individuals through their journey of self-identity. Know you don’t have to walk this road alone. We’ve been providing therapy to the trans community since day one and will continue to do so as long as we’re practicing.

If you are trans, think that you might be trans, or have a loved one that is trans, and are looking for support from a trans-affirming therapist, please feel free to contact us at AshTree Counseling Center. A 15-minute consultation is free, and we would love to support you.

Also, we highly recommend you check out this Facebook community for Trans people that we absolutely adore: You Might Wanna Learn More About Trans People

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *