In 2014, while working at a charter school that serves low-income, at-risk youth, I started our first GSA, or gay-straight alliance. I was so proud to work with some of the most creative, gifted, and interesting kids I’ve ever met. They were all so independent and confident, unafraid to set-trends and express themselves in unique ways: truly inspired teens! I did notice, though, that many of our group members expressed a lot of confusion about the “spectrum” of genders and sexualities that exist in today’s mainstream LBGTQ community. Many kids said they felt pressured to pick a label or “identity” that perfectly and fully encompasses all of who they are – and that’s just impossible. While it’s healthy and wonderful for kids to be dynamic, fluid, and adaptable, some kids now believe they have to change their body parts to match their unique personality. Many of these children also experience painful and debilitating gender dysphoria, which can be crippling for both the child and family.
I’ve spent the last several years doing research on gender identity, gender dysphoria, and medical transition I’ve worked with teens and adults who have lived through challenging experiences around these issues. I’ve developed a unique approach to helping kids who struggle with their gender: I use non-judgmental, compassionate dialogue that focuses on exploration rather than immediately seeking to affirm and transition your child. Together with your teen and family, we consider multiple complex factors that may contribute to their dysphoria, including social, cognitive, environmental, physical, and emotional factors. Treatments may include mindfulness, somatic, and integrative techniques as well as confidence-building, and age-appropriate sexual identity exploration. I also educate parents about the topic of gender identity, break down stereotypes, discuss risks, and encourage parents to become deeply invested in the process so they can best support their child outside of therapy sessions. While transition may be the best option for some kids, many others have had very painful and negative experiences with their transition, and I help families prevent this from happening. I believe I owe it to your child to be thorough and careful in my approach, placing safety, well-being, and happiness above all else.
For more on this topic, here are the top 6 reasons parents should consider my unique approach in working with your gender confused or trans-identifying teen.