I have worked with many LGBTIQ people over the 20+ years that I have been a therapist. As a member of the LGBTIQ community, it is important to me and a privilege to help others struggling with sexuality and gender issues. In the last 5 years, I have been shocked by the unprecedented number of teen girls identifying as boys. They all feel that they have the wrong body and are convinced that if they change their body through hormones and surgery, their pain and unhappiness will go away.
When I work with people with gender dysphoria, I don’t accept that it is as simple as being “born in the wrong body”. I try to help people explore their histories and experiences so that they can come to understand why their body became such a source of distress and why they find identification with their natal sex so abhorrent. This is not about trying to help people identify with one gender or the other, or neither, but about helping them know themselves so that they can really make an informed decision about whether they will pursue gender transition or not. Some people continue to pursue transition, but others become aware that there are other factors generating their distress.
Most of the people I have worked with are deeply distressed. They will do anything to feel better. Transitioning offers a very attractive solution. So much hope is attached to what transitioning will do for them, that often it seems like they hope they can become a new person and start over. I have not seen one person with gender dysphoria who does not have something in their past or current life that is causing great distress. Sometimes there are really difficult family dynamics; many of the people I see are very lonely and have difficulty connecting with others; many are afraid to have their own voice and be themselves, hoping that transitioning will help them do that; almost all of the young people I have seen struggle with same-sex attraction (more about this in another post); and some have histories of trauma, sexual, physical, emotional.
Understanding what led to the gender dysphoria doesn’t necessarily make it go away. But if you come to see that your dysphoria is related to trauma, or bullying, or disgust about same-sex attraction, you are then in a better decision to decide whether transitioning is the best way to deal with it. Ultimately, true freedom comes from self acceptance. Jay writes about this so powerfully in this blog. But to get there, you have to open yourself up to exploring the pain of the past, exploring your internalised shame and self-hatred, and to the possibility that maybe its not as simple as being ‘born in the wrong body”.