• The Growing Support for Gender Identity

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    The Growing Support for Gender Identity

    Caitlin Jenner is on the cover of Vanity Fair. The day-to-day life of Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen, is being documented on reality television.

    Although the topic of gender identity has become more mainstream today than it ever has been, the intense struggle, unfortunately, continues to exist for those who grapple with gender identity.

    In basic terms, gender identity can be defined as how a person perceives themselves and what gender they call themselves. A person’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth. It is a very personal issue.

    Those who believe they have been given the incorrect gender assignment at birth frequently experience inner turmoil, anxiety and even depression. It’s a difficult situation to admit and to disclose.

    People in this position are often considered “transgender.” The term transgender refers to people whose gender identity or expression of gender characteristics differs from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.

    However, not all people who consider themselves transgender can (or should) undergo a gender transition.

    Gender transition requires an extreme commitment physically, mentally, financially and spiritually. Transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the sex with which they identify, rather than the gender assigned to them at birth. This may, or may not, include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures.

    Regardless of the individual’s preference or desire, gender identity issues can benefit from professional therapy by trained experts. In most cases, gender transition and reassignment absolutely requires extensive analysis and professional sessions to evaluate the person’s decision before any medical steps are allowed.

    Prior to any surgery or medical treatments and procedures that alter an individual’s sexual characteristics, a variety health professionals will be part of a team that includes psychologists or psychiatrists, in overseeing this transitioning process.

    Experts believe that because of the permanent nature of the surgery, candidates for sex-change surgery must evaluate extensively in advance. These individuals are often required to spend a period of time integrating themselves into the cross-gender role before any procedure begins.

    Counseling and peer support are also invaluable to transsexual individuals.

    Frequently, parents and family members may be surprised, even shocked or embarrassed by the disclosure that someone they thought they knew well has gender identity issues. A professional counselor can be a neutral party.

    The Role of Therapy

    A trained therapist can view the gender identity issues objectively and provide impartial guidance to benefit not only the person entering a new transition, but for those friends and family who are also affected by the decision.

    For these specialists, the objective is not to change how the person feels about their gender. Rather, they focus on a goal of dealing with the anxiety, suffering and even pain that may accompany those feelings.

    The primary goal for people with gender identity disorders include:

    • long-term personal comfort with their gender identity decision
    • the ability to experience psychological and physical well-being and self-fulfillment
    • the skills to live out their daily lives with a minimum of physical and emotional distress
    • inner confidence and strength to avoid succumbing to the difficulties of the stigma that is often attached to transgender individuals

    There is no doubt that psychological therapy can deal with the numerous gender identity disorder problems and can be valuable in helping the person adjust. The awkward and persistent feelings of identifying with the opposite gender do not have to be a burden. A life complete with joy and pleasure is certainly obtainable with the proper support.

    And as this controversial topic increases awareness and is discussed more openly, a growing number of medical professionals are being trained to provide transgender transition services. These specialists recognize the difficult path that the majority of people with gender identity will face and the problems that arise in daily life. With proper support and guidance, those encountering gender identity concerns have a strong opportunity to live successful, productive lives virtually indistinguishable from anyone else.

    Hopefully, in the very near future it will not require a superstar athlete or a reality television show to shed light on gender identity and gender transition.


    Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and Examiner.com.

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