You may or may not be taking hormones. You may or may not be preparing for surgery. Either way, you feel like it would be helpful to speak to someone. Yet, it's hard to know whom you can trust. Those of you who are seeking 'mandatory' therapy as a pre-op requirement may feel particularly leery.
You might be viewing therapy as synonymous to a police interrogation or inquisition. Who can blame you. You are being evaluated and we both know that the therapist's opinion weighs greatly on whether or not you can make full transition. The psychological community as a whole still classifies your state of being as 'gender identity disorder'.
No wonder you feel tentative about going to therapy. Who wants to be judged. All you want is a place to talk, heard and perhaps get assistance in formulating a new direction in life.
The Change Many people in our society mistakenly think that transgender is a choice. It is not. They also believe that it is something that can be fixed. It can not. Transgender is not about whom you want to have sex with, how you want to dress or be perceived. Rather, it is clearly about your state of being. It is about how you personally identify yourself: male or female. Unfortunately your body doesn't represent the way that you inwardly experience yourself.
You've probably been feeling this way all your life. Unfortunately our world doesn't understand. Not even parents, teachers or close friends. At best you were 'dismissed' during your formative years. The people around you thought that 'you'd grow out of your 'inappropriate' behavior. At worst, you were ridiculed, shunned and physically abused. As a result you have become adept at being 'someone else' at work, at home and in your community. The energy you've put out doing this is tiring. You know it's time to make a change.
You may be in your forties, fifties or sixties. Commonly this is the age that many people feel like it's OK to start living their life for real. Maybe you waited until your children have grown or you are reaching retirement age. Now you feel like you've had enough with trying to conform to a way of being that clearly isn't you. It's time to live your life the way you have always wanted to.
You may be in your twenties or thirties. Fortunately, the world is now beginning to recognize and accept transgender in children even as young as age 6. Indeed, most transgender adults recall having the feeling of being different or not fitting into their assigned gender role but quickly learned to hide and keep these feelings to themselves. Children react strongly to negativity and learn how to hide in order to survive and protect themselves. Today's world is a bit more savvy. The internet connects many counter-cultures and gives voice to those who are different. As a young adult you also need a place to talk and explore your options. Therapy is also helpful to you.
So What Can I Get Out of Therapy? While there are many great websites and chat boards to help you with your transition, talking one on one to a trained therapist can be immensely beneficial to you. Many psychotherapists are trained and experienced in working with people in transition. Naturally familiarity is key. But even more important, is finding someone who is open minded, non-judgemental and safe.
Therapy is all about the relationship between you and your therapist. Is your therapist someone whom you can build trust and feel OK about revealing what's truly going on inside of you? Most of us carry pain from our past. Working through the pain and releasing, is instrumental for maximum functioning and self-actualization. In order to reach our full potential we need to let go of the past and re-examine the person that we really are. Ultimately we want our insides and outsides to match. In order to be truly beautiful we need to feel beautiful inside.
Therapy is also the place to get input on the practicalities of transition. It will help you deal with the emotional changes of taking hormones. You can talk about when to change from the men's room to ladies' room or ladies' room to men's room and how to deal with the accompanying fears. How will you tell friends and family? How will transition affect your present occupation? There are a myriad of topics to discuss. Most of all, you need a place to grieve. Any major change in life can be described as a grief and loss experience. It's vital to mourn the past so that you can move on to your present and live life the way you were meant to be.
You might also be undecided about transition. You might not want to have surgery or alter your body. Or, you might be experiencing some depression due to gender dysphoria which is the feelings of distress due to conflicting feelings about your sense of gender. All these feelings can be helped by talking with a therapist who encourages and guides you to search within.
About Me I am an experienced licensed Marriage Family Therapist with a specialty in alternative lifestyle sexuality issues. I am an advocate for the transgender/transsexual community. I have helped many sort out and understand the wide spectrum defined by Harry Benjamin.
Together we can sort out the life that's correct for you.
In addition to transgender issues, I help people with deep depression, grief, bipolar and relationship conflicts. You'll find me to be comfortable, safe and easy to talk with. Many of us get stuck because of old, unhelpful ideas and an incorrect belief system. I'll show you how to recognize the distortions in your thinking and replace them with accurate, more helpful ways of thinking and being.
© 2016 Jackie A. Castro, MA, LMFT