Last week, I attended a conference on transgender healthcare that was targeted to both mental and medical health providers. Since then, I have been trying to synthesize my thoughts and learning in order to pass it along to you all. The one thought that I keep coming back to is the importance of
Among the community of providers who serve transgender populations, we take the position that people know themselves, their gender identity, and their desires. It is true that someone may still be in a process of personal discovery or questioning, but that nevertheless is a position of knowledge. In no way is it my job to tell someone if they are “really trans, gender queer, a woman, a man, etc.” or that they are going through a “stage” or that they will “grow out of it.”
My job is to help people feel acknowledged, accepted, and safe in the therapeutic space, as well as in other areas of their lives if they choose. I am able to do assessments related to gender affirmation surgeries, work with families to create positive environments at home, and assist in social transitions at home or school. Additionally, as a trauma specialist, I am able to do the work that is all too often needed related to being a victim of a hate crime or targeted violence or assault or other traumatic events that are or are not related to one’s gender identity. While I understand my role as a provider, I also understand that I do not know what I do not know and that the possibility for error and associated need for repairing those mistakes is also present.
But what is it that I need you, the people reading this blog, to know for yourself? It all boils down to acceptance and affirmation. You are valuable, worthwhile, and knowledgeable. You know who you are no matter how many people out there tell you that you do not. Nothing about you makes you bad, wrong, or deserving of hatred or violence. And for those of you who have people in your life who are not being treated with respect and dignity, please view yourself as a person who can give that person a safe place and accepting, supportive relationship. This can go a long way in terms of overall mental health. It is a fact that people who are believed and accepted in relation to their history of trauma or identity have lower rates of mental and physical health problems now and years down the road.
So please, remember to treat everyone, including yourself, with dignity, respect, and acceptance.