Counselling for Gender Identity Issues
Gender identity counselling is something few counsellors have any experience or training in, so many of my clients have found unhelpful experiences in the past when seeking counselling for gender identity. As an ‘out’ genderqueer-transwoman, with clinical and research interests in transgender spanning many years, I’ve not only talked the talk, I also walk the walk. Whether you are gender-questioning, struggling to make sense of your gender identity, or recognise yourself as transgender and are looking for help with transition, I can offer you a supportive space to talk through the aspects that concern you.
Our sense of self is fundamental to how we function in and experience our world. It impacts on the relationships we have with other people who interact with us: how we relate to them, how they relate to us. Our sense of self however is a complex system of beliefs and experiences that arise from the moment of birth and develop through our lives – but they are often influenced by factors that took place even from the moment of our conception.
At birth, everyone is given a nominated gender identity based on a perception of their anatomy as either boy or girl. This sets our a pre-determined path of acceptable behaviours, attitudes, mannerisms – even colour choice, based on this nominated gender identity. And for some people these rules and expectations fit comfortably. For some though, there is a conflict between the nominated gender identity (being told you are male or female) and the inner experience of being you.
For girls who feel more male identified there is the option of the 'tomboy' identity until teenage when social pressure will increasingly demand conformity with 'proper girl identity'. For boys the social rules are even more strict and any gender non-conformity can result in victimisation and bullying.
However, the latest research is showing that many behaviours and traits associated traditionally with either boy or girl identity are in fact a result of some of the influences of hormones and gene constellations predetermined before we are even born.
This new knowledge has important implications for how we view gender identity and gendered performance.
For everyone, the expression of gender identity is caught between the inner sense of self, the rules of our culture and the degree to which we are free to transgress those rules.
For some the resolution to this dilemma can be found by undergoing genital reassignment surgery. However, other options exist and a rising movement is emerging, offering new potentials for the expression of self through gender blending, gender fluidity and Transgender identities. (see also 'Are we facing a genderless society' )
Sadly, sexual minority issues and gender identity are not part of the core curriculum on counselling and psychotherapy courses so for people wishing to explore their gender identity there are few therapists with any real appreciation of the issues, or understanding of the complexity of a gender identity that sits at odds with the one expected.
To explore and work with gender identity issues:
If you are in South Wales
For other parts of the UK the Pink Therapy Website offers a list of therapists who have training and awareness in issues related to sexuality and gender identity.
You may also be interested in reading:
A ground breaking book that presents new ways of understanding gender and offers a radical way of embracing a congruent transgender identity visit the website where you can learn more about my trans-activism and equality and diversity work Article on Transgender Youth
For other books relating to transgender and other sexual minority issues please visit the LGBT Counselling page