by Alexa Tennyson, MA, LAMFT
One-on-one therapy is a powerful and important source of support and healing through and alongside an individual’s exploration of their gender identity. I believe in this not just as a therapist—but as a human who has seen gender identity and dysphoria directly affect my closest loved ones, and witnessed the transformational effects of gender therapy on their lives and mental health.
Therapy offers a safe space to bring to light thoughts and emotions that you may spend much of the day trying to subdue or ignore.
It’s not that you automatically need therapy simply because your gender doesn’t match with your sex assigned at birth; rather, therapy offers a time and a place in which to explore the thoughts and feelings that you yourself may just be making sense of or getting ready to acknowledge.
Research shows that therapy works because of the relationship that develops between the client and the therapist. Opening up to friends and family can also be helpful and valuable, but the relationship with your therapist is unique in that you can truly let go of the common impulse to filter your thoughts. There’s no need to consider how the therapist may feel should you express a certain idea, or how they might treat you differently in the future.
So whether every molecule of your being wants to shout the truth about your gender from the rooftops, or you’ve only heard a few whispers and are curious to explore what they’ve got to say about yourself as a whole human, therapy can help. And, we can decide together how you wish to proceed, whether that’s beginning the process of medical transition and gender confirmation surgery, changing how you express your gender to the world, or a different path entirely.
For those who experience gender dysphoria in particular, a therapist can also help untangle how your feelings about your gender may be affecting your overall mental health and contributing to issues like anxiety and depression. Because the unfortunate truth is that, until we’re able to move society forward, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are the all-too-common side effects of gender dysphoria.
Gender therapy can also be hugely helpful if and when you decide to approach the topic with your friends and family. Gender therapists help you develop a plan for revealing yourself to the world, from your closest friends and family to your acquaintances and co-workers.
The Minnesota transgender community is already supported by top-notch organizations like the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition, Reclaim!, and PFLAG Twin Cities, and I’m proud to add myself to that list as a safe space to explore gender identity here at Heart of the City Therapy Group in South Minneapolis.
Between the four walls of my office, I’ve had clients revel in the delight that can come with picking out a wardrobe that they’ve long dreamt about; I’ve struggled beside young adults grappling with their gender identity and when or if to bring their family in on their journey; and I’ve helped clients heal from the traumas they’ve experienced as their gender identities have clashed with other parts of their internal and external worlds.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to bear witness to the bravery needed to make sense of the thoughts and feelings surrounding gender identity, and, in so doing, have helped many live out more authentic lives.
If you’re seeking the support of an LGBTQ-affirming therapist to walk with you on your gender journey, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.