Gender-affirming therapy and counseling support transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) individuals in a safe environment. In this setting, the provider validates and affirms the patient’s gender identity. There is no attempt to deny, fix, or repair the person’s gender identity.
Please note that this article uses the acronym LGBTQIA+. We recognize that not all groups are included explicitly within this acronym and want to express that we support all people, regardless of how they identify.
At Ancora Wellness, we celebrate that people identify in many different ways when it comes to gender. We also believe that everyone has a right to mental health care that values them and makes them feel safe.
The Ancora team provides inclusive, integrative treatments for the total person, including nutrition services, acupuncture, and counseling. Reach out today to our Hillsboro, OR, clinic to get started.
How Does Gender-Affirming Therapy Support Individuals?
Gender-affirming therapy encompasses many modalities and treatments to validate a person’s identity. It can include any of the following:
- Skincare and Hair Removal
- Referrals to Specialists
- Hormone Therapy
- Gender Affirming Surgery
The stark reality is that those in the LGBTQ+ community face significant disparities in their access to medical services and mental health care. This fact, combined with societal discrimination, leaves gender-nonconforming individuals facing significant health risks.
Anxiety, depression, obesity, and sexually-transmitted diseases are more prevalent in this community than in the general population. And for LGBTQIA+ youth, the mental health concerns are even more pronounced. They are also more likely to face bullying and violence in their daily lives.
Gender-affirming therapy seeks to combat the harmful trends and disturbing statistics by validating the person’s humanity, value, and sense of worth. Everyone deserves this much.
What Can a Gender-Affirming Counselor Address?
A gender-affirming therapist can help patients and clients process the negative life experiences they have experienced. Ideally, gender-affirming providers are also able to offer trauma-informed care.
Some areas a therapist or counselor might address include:
- Shame: Many gender-nonconforming individuals internalize society’s negative narratives, leading to a sense of humiliation or low self-worth.
- Trauma: The world has become more inclusive than it once was, but we are nowhere near where we need to be to support everyone as their authentic selves. Unfortunately, traumatic experiences are frequent for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Depression or Anxiety: These mental health issues are widespread for those who don’t fit society’s vision of gender identity.
- Self-Harm: Suicide ideation and self-harm are common coping mechanisms for anyone suffering trauma, abuse, and shame.
These specialists can also help folks connect with gender-affirming medical providers, estheticians, and surgeons. Gender-affirming care should encompass the whole person.
Gender-Affirming Therapy Supports Parents, Too
Ideally, families share love and support. They share homes, resources, and ideas. For many people, family is the greatest validator of who we are.
At the same time, all families have friction points, especially as children grow up and become more independent. Parents who have always cheered you on may find themselves struggling with your gender identity. They may need time and help to reconcile preconceived ideas about gender.
If you feel safe and comfortable pursuing it, gender-affirming therapy sessions for the family may be helpful. They can help parents and other close family members navigate their part of this journey. It also might help you gain perspective on the emotions your loved ones are experiencing.
No matter your child’s age, it can be a huge shock to learn that they identify differently than you assumed. If you are the parent of a child who is gender-nonconforming, here are some first steps to take:
Listen to what your child says about how they feel and identify. While the idea may be foreign or even shocking to you, it’s essential to understand that your child knows what they are experiencing. Unless they ask you for input or advice, try to refrain from offering it. Simply listen and let them feel heard.
Provide Support, not Blame
Many parents experience strong emotions when their child tells them about their gender identity. And frequently, these emotions are negative. You may feel worried, angry, confused, and even betrayed.
But regardless of how you feel in that moment, reassure your child that they are safe with you, and you love them. Avoid attaching any blame to your child or yourself as they bravely share their truest self with you. The freedom to express their genuine self will help your child stay safe, healthy, and connected.
Practice Active Acceptance
Depending on where they are in their identity recognition and expression, your child may do a lot of exploring the following:
- Pronoun Usage
- Clothing Choices
- Makeup Usage
You can play an enormous role in protecting your child’s mental and physical wellness when you actively affirm their choices by adopting the pronouns and names they choose.
Seek Support for Yourself
Parents are likely to feel a lot of big emotions as they walk this journey with their children. Be sure to find a gender-affirming counselor for yourself so that you also have a safe space to share and learn.
It’s important to recognize that the family dynamic isn’t always around a child who shares their gender identity. Sometimes, it’s the parent who chooses to come out as non-conforming. Sometimes it’s a spouse or partner. Regardless of the relationship, it’s always appropriate to listen, support, and accept.
One Quick Reminder: What Gender-Affirming Care Is Not
Gender-affirming care provides validation of a person’s gender identity. Plain and simple.
In no way should this form of therapy or a counselor who claims to use it try to change, deny, “cure,” or reassign a person’s gender identity. That practice is harmful.
Ancora Wellness Is Your Home for Gender-Affirming Care
Ancora Wellness is an actively inclusive, anti-bias care clinic. We accept, support, acknowledge, and celebrate your journey with respect and sincerity.
Our team offers naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, and nutrition services from our clinic in Hillsboro, Oregon. And our counselors provide virtual and in-person sessions for individuals, couples, and families. If you want to explore your gender identity in a safe environment, reach out to Ancora Wellness today for an appointment.