I remember one of my first clients like I saw them yesterday. They were 18 years old and seemed extremely well rounded. The first thing this client said to me during our initial session was, “my parents don’t talk to me anymore because I’m broken. My friend’s mom is paying for me to come to counseling.”
Of course my first thought and questions were what the client believed was wrong with them. They told me that their parents were upset because they wouldn’t act like their son, or how they thought their son should act.
My client liked to swim, go to the gym, draw, design clothes, paint their fingernails in beautiful designs, read, and do many other things. Their parents were ok with the sport and the fitness but nothing else.
They didn’t Identify as a boy or as a girl, in their words, “I don’t know, I just want to be me, I don’t know what to do.” They reported feelings of stress, isolation, and depression.
So, I decided right then and there. I was going to allow all my clients to explore their identity and expression when they were with me in session.
Support in a Society of This or That
We live in a society that still generally subscribes to a binary system of gender. Trying to make it this or that, when in fact it is a complex system.
I want to make it clear that I am in no way an expert in gender studies. However, it quickly became a passion of mine due to clients who needed a space to be themselves.
I identify as a man and because of this I am given a lot of privilege in our society. Do I subscribe to all “man things?” Of course not! So, I presented at conferences on the topic and began to start discussion with people whenever I could.
My presentation got mixed reviews and sparked some heated discussions which only led me to believing even stronger that gender exploration needs to be done.
So I began to encourage my clients to express themselves freely in their gender identity and expression during counseling.
The client above was the first of many to say something similar to me in session and I wanted to make a place for them to feel not only safe, and comfortable, but also to be themselves.
Benefits to Gender Exploration
I practice counseling from a theoretical standpoint called Choice Theory which shares attributes of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In short, Choice Theory believes that everyone has the power to make their own choices and that we are constantly attempting to meet our 5 Basic Human Needs. These are:
If you would like to read a previous blog of mine about Choice Theory click here.
Children who do not fit the binary system of gender, which is much more than we are led to believe, will have difficulty satisfying their basic needs if we don’t allow them to explore their gender identities and expressions. Being able to express ourselves openly and truthfully is directly tied to many of the 5 basic needs.
Not feeling like you belong or are loved can lead to people neglecting their health because they don’t have a sense of freedomover their person. Not feeling like you have control over your own identity can make you feel isolated from those around you which can lead to depression, anger, anxiety, and much more. Experiencing constant dread and lack of support leaves very little room to enjoy one's life and can lead to depression or thoughts of suicide.
Our needs are connected and feed off of each other. Allowing adolescents, teens, and young adults to explore their gender identity and expression at an early age can lead to less mental health issues later in life.
We all want to live a life that we enjoy as the person we know we are.
If you, yourself or someone that you know and care for is struggling with gender identity issues please seek counseling assistance. There are many counselors, like myself that specialize in helping clients explore their gender identities and expressions.
Resources like Psychology Today can help you to find local mental health providers. There are many counselors out there who help with a wide range of both gender and sexuality issues.
Hint: When you find a handful of counselors that you think sound good make sure to go to their website and look to see if they have Gender/Sexuality listed in someway on there as well. If they take the time to list it on their actual website then they likely experience in working with the population.
Life is worth living as yourself. Start today by exploring your identity with a counselor in your area.
Below is a brief list of resources including books, websites, and hotlines.
Below is a list of websites you may find helpful. Please click on each to be taken to their website.
Gender and Sexuality Center at UT
The GSA Network
Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT)
Central Texas Transgender Society (CTTGS)
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health
Below is a list of hotlines to use in cases of emergencies and support.
The Trevor Project's 24/7 Lifeline at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386) or Trevor Chat, the Trevor Project's online messaging service
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860
Do you live outside the United States? If so, check out The Trevor Project's list of international resources here.
I love working with adolescents, teens, and young adults with all sorts of issues and concerns. If you have any questions please contact me by clicking here, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or if you are interested in setting up a free 30-minute consultation click here.
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About my Blog
I love providing people with information. So in my blog you will find posts on topics such as: community resources, media suggestions, parenting questions, and informational posts.