Archive of ‘LGBTQ’ category

Bruce to Caitlyn: Gender Identity Resources

By: Natalie Love, LPC-Intern and LMFT-Associate  Supervised by Sabrina Kindell, LPC-S, LMFT-S

By: Natalie Love, LPC-Intern, LMFT-Associate
Supervised by Sabrina Kindell, LPC-S, LMFT-S

In my last post, Bruce to Caitlyn: Understanding Gender Identity, I began a response to the recent Bruce Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer and offered some basic information about gender identity, societal influence and the gender binary, and the inclusive gender spectrum. Here, I am following up with some specifics around pronouns, terms, & other gender identity resources.

Pronouns

Now that Jenner has officially emerged publicly as Caitlyn Jenner, I will be referring to her as Caitlyn and will use “her” and “she” rather than “him” or “he.” The use of preferred pronouns and transgender individuals is something clients, colleagues, & friends often ask about. When someone identifies as non-binary or gender non-conforming the pronouns “he” or “she” may not feel like a fit either. There are several gender neutral or gender inclusive pronouns that people choose to utilize instead. Here is a chart with some examples.

genderidentityresourcesIf you are unsure of what pronoun someone prefers the best thing is to simply politely. This cartoon effectively illustrates the pronoun issue in which I’m referring.

What is Transitioning?

Transitioning refers to the process an individual goes through to discover and or affirm their gender identity. This is a long-term journey that may take many years. This process is also unique to the individual in that some trans people do not have the means or resources for surgery and some do not have a strong desire or need to “medically transition.” There tends to be two aspects to transitioning:

  • Social and legal transition: Change of name, pronoun selection, cosmetic modifications to appearance, dress, changes to an individual’s vocal tone, etc.For many people, this will also entail legal changes to their name and gender marker on identification documents like   driver’s licenses and passports.
  • Medical transition: The introduction of hormones (testosterone for trans men, estrogen and testosterone blockers for trans women) into the body. For some people, it will also involve surgical procedures that align the physical body with one’s gender identification. These may     include “top” surgery, “bottom” surgery, and, for trans women, facial feminization.

Other Terms

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Introduces hormones associated with the gender that the patient identifies with (notably testosterone for trans men and estrogen for trans women).

MTF: male-to-female. Indicates a transgender individual who was originally assigned the gender of male at birth, but has claimed a female identity through clothing, surgery, or attitude changes

 FTM: female-to-male. Indicates a transgender individual who was originally assigned the gender of female at birth, but has claimed a male identity through clothing, surgery, or attitude changes.

“T” word: I’ve found that either “trans” or “transgender” are appropriate when referring to someone who identifies outside of their assigned gender. The word “tranny” is not generally accepted and some find it to be very offensive. It has historically been used as a slur but some are embracing it in the same way “queer” has evolved into a more empowering word that the LGBTQ community not utilizes in a positive way. Since the term has been perceived as offensive, I would say it is best to proceed with caution and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis rather than used as a general term describing transgender individuals.

Overall when it comes to terminology & pronouns consider the Platinum Rule: treat people as they’d like to be treated (vs. the Golden Rule: treat people as you’d like to be treated).

Don’ts  

I typically feel that when we come from a respectful, genuine, & compassionate place most questions or mistakes are easily repaired. However, there are some questions that are generally considered to be off limits despite good intentions. I like to keep the Platinum Rule in mind here as well. Here are a few that should be avoided (remember you can always Google things you are curious about):

  • Do not ask how people have sex.  I don’t want to be asked this, as a cisgender individual, so it’s safe to assume a trans individual doesn’t either.
  • Do not ask to see pre-transition photos or ask about who a person “used to be” (ie name etc.).  When we start from the place of accepting people for who they say they are, knowing how they once were is not significant. Yes, you may be very curious how someone may have looked before, but it is in the past and many trans people prefer to leave that in the past (not unlike my preference to not share photos of myself from middle school).
  • Do not ask about a person’s surgical status or body parts. Some things are private and should only be talked about if someone brings it up on their own. Not every trans person has the desire or the means to make surgical changes, and this does not mean that they are any less trans. Understanding someone’s gender is not contingent upon understanding what happens “down there.”
  • Do not ask when a person “became” transgender. This question implies that there is a choice related to gender identity. As with the gay, lesbian, & bisexual coming out process, the trans coming out process can be long and challenging. No one suddenly “becomes” trans any more than they “turn” gay or lesbian.

There are many organizations and gender identity resources where you can gain more information and access support for yourself or others, some of which can be found on our website. In my next post, I plan to share some ways that you can be an ally to the transgender community.

References: Straight for Equality


Bruce to Caitlyn: Understanding Gender Identity

By: Natalie Love, LPC-Intern and LMFT-Associate  Supervised by Sabrina Kindell, LPC-S, LMFT-S

By: Natalie Love, LPC-Intern and LMFT-Associate
Supervised by Sabrina Kindell, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Gender identity, the gender spectrum, and transgender issues have been getting a lot of media attention in recent years. Laverne Cox, from Orange is the New Black was featured as the first openly transgender person on the cover of Time Magazine in 2014. The Amazon series, Transparent, which follows Jefferey Tambor’s character coming out to his self absorbed family as transgender, won the Golden Globe for Best Television Series (musical/comedy). And most recently, the gold medal winning Olympian, father, and step-father to the popular Kardashian-Jenner family, Bruce Jenner has also come out as transgender, in that he identifies internally as a woman.

The anticipated Diane Sawyer interview, in which Jenner shares his story, aired April 24th, 2015. If you missed it, here is a link where you can access segments of the ABC interview.

I, along with many others, tuned in with curiosity, skepticism, and hope. I, admittedly, wasn’t expecting to be influenced too much by this interview. I work with transgender & gender nonconforming clients and feel connected to the issues in our culture around gender & sexuality. I’m not saying I’m an expert by any means, but I would consider myself an ally & LGBTQ affirming therapist. I was interested in watching mainly because I felt hopeful that Bruce was going to share about his experience & possibly demystify some of the tabloid rumors about him as well as the trans population in general. In the midst of watching, I found myself experiencing a number of emotional responses. From sadness & tears, to anger & frustration, followed by compassion & motivation.
I was motivated to respond, in this post, to Jenner’s interview & coming out in hopes of clarifying some of the misconceptions around gender. As I began writing, I realized how many facets there are to consider when exploring gender diversity, so this will be the first in a series of post related to understanding gender identity.

The Basics: Gender, Sex, & Attraction

Gender Binary vs. Gender Continuum/Spectrum

Our society has an unspoken need or tendency to categorize and label; black or white, gay or straight, male or female. This is not necessarily a “good” or “bad” thing. It is simply the way most people have come to understand gender. This may seem rigid & incorrect for many (particularly those who do not fit into these categories), but acknowledging that this perspective continues to be where many people approach gender, is important as we move toward change.

“Western culture has come to view gender as a binary concept, with two rigidly fixed options: male or female, both grounded in a person’s physical anatomy (genderspectrum.org).” At birth we are assigned male or female, but this binary concept fails to account for the rich variation that exists. The gender spectrum is a linear model ranging from 100% male to 100% female, with various states of androgyny in between. This model is much more inclusive & encompasses all people rather than just those who fall into the gender binary.

This “Genderbread Person” is a great illustration explaining the gender continuum, as well as sexuality & expression which can aid in better understanding gender identity.

understanding gender identity

Gender Identity vs. Biological Sex

Biological sex consists of the physical traits we are born with, including genitalia, hormones, body shape, voice, etc. A person’s biological sex does not always correspond to their gender.
Gender identity is a person’s private sense or internal perception of gender, which is separate from physical sex, it is how someone feels inside, whether male, female or somewhere in between or outside these labels.
When our gender identity & assigned sex at birth match up, we are considered gender normative or cisgender.
So, in basic terms, being transgender is when what is assigned at birth doesn’t fit with how we feel internally.
The way we outwardly convey gender, through dress, demeanor, actions, & interests makes up our gender expression. Gender expression is influenced by gender norms, so someone may have been assigned male at birth but internally identify as female and continue to dress & act male in order to fit into societal norms.

Sexual Orientation

Who we are attracted to, emotionally, romantically, sexually, is independent from our gender & gender identity. People who are straight typically have feelings mainly for people of the opposite sex, while those who are gay or lesbian have these feelings for those of the same sex, & those who are bisexual have feelings for both. People who are asexual experience little to no attraction to either sex. Just as someone who is cisgender (or gender normative) may be gay, straight, bisexual, queer etc., the same is true for someone who identifies as transgender. We all have a gender as well as a sexual orientation and one does not infer the other.

As with any group of people, there is a lot of diversity and variation. The transgender umbrella encompasses all of this variation, from gender queer, gender nonconforming, transsexual, bigender, third sex, gender fluid, and more.

There are many terms & definitions and it is okay to make mistakes, especially when you remain open, curious, and non-judgmental. Understanding gender identity and all of the terms all at once can be a lot to take in. I will provide an overview of terms and do’s & don’ts in my next post. In the mean time, acknowledging & reconsidering our culture’s gender binary model & understanding that just as with personalities, race, & culture, there is a wide array of diversity within gender & sexuality for us to embrace, respect, and value.


National Coming Out Day

By: Savannah Stoute, LPC-Intern Supervised by Leslie Larson, LPC-S

By: Savannah Stoute, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Leslie Larson, LPC-S

Did you know that October 11th is a significant day in LGBT history in the United States? According to the Human Rights Campaign, Every year on October 11th, the United States celebrates the LGBT community with National Coming Out Day. If National Coming Out Day is new to you, you might ask yourself, “why October 11th?” It turns out that on October 11, 1987, about half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second demonstration in our nation’s capital that resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay and Lesbian Organization (LLEGO’). The momentum continued for four months after this amazing march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.

Risks and Benefits

National Coming Out Day may give LGBT individuals the confidence to come out to their loved ones, but it’s important to know that not everyone has a supportive experience. There are risks and benefits of coming out, therefore, it’s important to determine what is right for you when choosing to come out.

Some risks you might encounter include:

  • Homophobia
  • Friends may not be supportive
  • Parents may not be supportive
  • Homelessness
  • You might get asked a lot of uncomfortable questions
  • You might lose friends

Some benefits of coming out:

  • You won’t be afraid of people finding out
  • You will have a chance to live authentically
  • You can receive support from LGBT Organizations
  • You will have the opportunity to make LGBT friends
  • You can be a role model for other LGBT youth
  • You may have improved self esteem

Deciding when to come out

  • Be comfortable with who you are. When deciding to come out to your loved ones, it’s important to become comfortable with yourself before you begin to tell people. If you are confidant in yourself, you will be comfortable with the processing time it takes your loved one. You will feel more comfortable when answer questions and clarifying the process if necessary.
  • Take your time. Don’t feel forced or pressured to come out by others. If you feel like people know and they are just waiting for you to confirm, let them wait. This is your journey and your life. Don’t let someone else’s expectations dictate your coming out experience.
  • Find a safe person. This may be a friend, family member, or a counselor. Sometimes finding someone safe for the first time you say “I’m Gay” out loud makes all the difference for your confidence.
  • Choose a safe moment and place. Deciding to come out to your family at your cousins wedding may not be the best idea. If you decide to come out, pick a day, time, and place where you and the person you are coming out to will have time to process this new information.
  • Be patient. Allow your loved ones time to process this new information. Not everyone will be surprised or shocked, but there will be some people that didn’t see this coming. Give these individuals the time and space to come to terms with this information. Your family and friends might have some difficult questions for you. Help them understand where you are within the process and then allow them the chance to take their time. It might be hard for a dad to hear that his son is gay, then the next day get introduced to your boyfriend. Ask your family members how comfortable they are before you start adding on more information. Coming out as LGBT may be something you have been processing for years, so giving you family and friends’ time to process will be beneficial as well.

The process of coming out to your family and friends can be difficult. You may feel scared and uncertain about how your loved ones will react. Joining a LGBT support group will help you hear how others have dealt with the coming out period. Counseling can also be helpful during this time. If you find a counselor that is knowledgeable and sensitive about coming out as LGBT, you can process what it’s like during this time and have the support that you may be lacking.

NCOD logo designed by Keith Haring

NCOD logo designed by Keith Haring


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