Monday, 20 February 2012 03:10

Exploring Gender : Transitioning and Therapists

Written by  Cael

transgender symbol

I haven’t talked about myself much lately in Exploring Gender. I have been focusing on a lot of news and information. It’s so important to be aware of what is going on around us: laws, news about discrimination, the good things. The best way to be able to fight for equality is to have the knowledge and awareness of what’s going on in the world, but also to search for the good things and celebrate them so we know the fight isn’t fruitless. But this series is supposed to be about exploring gender, which also means looking into the personal, how gender and transitioning affects my life so others can know they are not alone, and also gain advice on how to navigate information and resources.

My life lately has been a transition in itself: new job, new roommate, new schedule, new prospects for my future. There hasn’t been a lot of time for thinking or reflecting on my transition, only being satisfied with being the guy I am at work, at home, and with my friends. It is rare now for someone to use the wrong pronouns or the wrong name. There are more steps to transitioning, though, than just living as a man.http://pics.livejournal.com/drjon/pic/000c7ac1

So what does transition mean? It can mean so many different things because everyone is different. Transition, on the most basic level, is the process an individual goes through, if uncomfortable with the gender assigned with their birth sex, to transition into a physical reflection of the gender representation with which they are most comfortable. The graphic on the right explains simply the differences between sex, gender, and orientation, which can often be confused. It is important to remember that no matter how a person chooses to identify or to present, their identity is valid—even if it may not make sense to you or reflect the norm of the label. How far someone decides to go in their transition is their choice and should not be criticized by anyone else within the community. We are all seeking acceptance, and it is important for us to support each other. We all need it. Being trans* is not easy, and talking is important.

Transitioning is a very personal and complicated experience. It involves a lot of thinking and reflection, for which honestly I just haven’t had much time. But things are slowing down a bit now, and I am coming face to face with my transition and what that means. The stages of transition include (note they do not all need to be taken or in any particular order, although therapy may be required before surgery or hormones): coming out, living as your true gender, name change, therapy, hormones, top surgery, bottom surgery, gender marker change.

The next stage in my process will be therapy, so I wanted to share the resources I have found to identify gender therapists throughout the country and also what to expect. I found many different resource lists, one here from The Transitional Male, which is a great site I would recommend checking out, and one here at Laura’s Playground, which is also a pretty good one. I also found a list specific to my state here compiled by The Virginia Department of Health and The Virginia Transgender Taskforce.

Therapy itself, besides being a vehicle to other stages in transition like surgery and hormones, is also an important way to help resolve your feelings about your gender and yourself. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to be faced with the difficulties of transition, coming out to family and friends, or even to  deal with other things happening in life which you may not have control over. Being able to have that outlet, that safe space, can be very important at a point in time in which you may feel very vulnerable. Therapy is mainly just a lot of talking, of trying to put your feelings into words and put them out there. There will be questions about gender and identity, but most good therapists know how to lead a conversation very naturally so it does not seem as if you are talking to someone you do not know. Mainly, they are there to listen and help you to figure out the best course of action.

When choosing a therapist, it is important to consider compatibility. You may not be comfortable at first. Many people do not want to talk to a therapist, feeling it is invasive. It can be hard, but it is important to give a therapist a chance, see how the process works, especially if you have never been to one before. If the relationship truly isn’t working, pursue another option, but it may take time to build a comfortable relationship.

I hope these resources help. If you have any further questions regarding therapy or transition, you can leave them in the comments or contact me directly on the site.

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