Many of the clients seen at LGBTQ Therapy Space come to us for gender identity counseling. But what exactly is does that mean? Is gender identity counseling a professional figuring out what gender identity a client should take on, and giving them answers? Certainly not. Our therapists never put labels on any of our clients, as it’s not our place as therapists to determine something so personal as gender identity. Instead, gender identity counseling is a path forward to help our clients understand themselves better, so that they may come closer to their own truth for themselves, and ultimately feel more congruent and comfortable in an identity. Being authentic to oneself allows for greater self-worth, self-esteem, and overall satisfaction and happiness, and it’s so important to help our clients get there. However, gender identity counseling is a personal process we help facilitate, so that clients can come to the answers for themselves. Only each individual can know if something they try on feels right, or feels off. So, how does gender identity counseling work?
At LGBTQ Therapy Space, we provide a safe, confidential, and contained place to explore, and figure things out. Something as nuanced as gender identity can seem confusing, and to have a place to simply talk through the various options, identities, and feelings around what feels right or wrong is imperative. Our therapists never put their own labels or identities onto our clients. We support them through questioning and conversation to help guide them to a place where they feel strongly in an identity, even if that identity is one that doesn’t fit into any particular box or binary. Gender identity is extremely personal, and it may change. It’s okay to evolve in that identity. Some clients may first identify as trans, but then realize that non-binary is a term that better fits them. Others may decide they identify as female, but then decide ultimately they are male. There’s no right and wrong in this journey. Instead, we can help guide your process by asking questions about what feels right, better than, worse than, or what things clients are still unsure about. By trying things on, you can see how things feel.
Sometimes clients may feel a certain way, but don’t yet know there’s a word for it. Our therapists are very versed in the language of gender non-conforming identities out there, and can help clients who are unsure where they fit in come up with the word or words that resonate with them the most. Sometimes this involves teaching clients about things, such as gender being on a spectrum, the concept of identifying with all pronouns, or the various ways gender can be expressed other than using certain identifying words.
Sometimes we can get confused by our own thoughts and feelings as clients, and we need that objective person to serve as a kind of mirror, repeating back what they are hearing us say, or noticing patterns they are seeing, to help them become clear about their feelings. With our gender identity counseling, therapists can help clients connect the dots, simply by reflecting back certain things. We may not even realize, for example, that we are averse to using a certain pronoun, until a therapist points out we are not using that word. That can give a client information about what their preferences are, in a deeper way, thus leading to a secure identification with their gender.
Many times, people exploring their gender identity struggle due to shame they have internalized from family, society, school, etc. about what it means to be gender non-conforming. They may have internalized trans-phobia, for example, and so are less inclined to identify that way. Therapists, by being unconditionally accepting, can help notice shame and help to untangle it, so that they can feel safe to be exactly who they are.
Gender identity counseling can be an extremely validating and helpful way for clients to feel more sure of themselves and how they want to identify, without shame. There is room for all sorts of identities on the gender spectrum, and sometimes we need a place to simply explore and understand ourselves better, with an objective, accepting person, to come closer to figuring out who we are and what we want. The world today is less binary, less black and white, and there is so much room to find your place. We’re here to guide you, and hold your hand through the process.