ORS tips and tools

Working with trans and gender diverse individuals

By Dr. Joyce Man

I was privileged to recently attend training on Culturally Safe Practices for Clinicians with Psychologist, Georgia Williams, and The Dash Health Hub. Georgia has conducted research with trans and gender-diverse individuals on their experiences with psychological services. I’d like to share some key take-home points to assist you to be a gender-diverse inclusive clinician.

Some reported experiences that were non-affirming or unhelpful included:

– Clinicians using the wrong pronouns or having their gender identity dismissed

– Being expected to educate the psychologists on basic terminology and LGBTQ+ issues

– Being asked inappropriate or uneducated questions about one’s gender identity simply out of curiosity

– Being unsure whether the service or psychologist was safe to discuss gender-diverse topics with

– Clinician’s pathologising gender diversity as a product of previous trauma

– Clinician’s lack of awareness of the impact of intersectionalism and broader systemic issues contributing to the stress of clients

Meanwhile, good therapeutic experiences involved clinicians:

– Respecting client’s pronouns and being gender diverse affirming

– Being open to feedback and willing to learn

– Helping clients move beyond acceptance of their gender diversity to embracing and celebrating their gender diversity

– Reflecting on their privilege and biases (particularly for cis, Anglo-Saxon, and heterosexual clinicians) to promote empathy for the additional struggles of those with multiple minority identities

– Knowing referral options and supports

– Recognising gender diversity is not an inherently negative experience

– Address the therapeutic goals identified by the individual instead of assuming they are here to discuss their gender diversity

Trans and gender-diverse clients also appreciate it when:

– Referral/intake forms included options that affirm gender-diverse individuals Visual and verbal signifiers were visible to indicate that a service is a safe place for LGBTQ+ individuals e.g. Presence of a rainbow flag, gender-neutral bathrooms

As clinicians working with trans and gender diverse clients, it is important as a start to distinguish between one’s gender orientation (the gender one is attracted to), from gender identity (one’s internal sense of their own gender), gender expression (how one’s gender is manifested through social norms), and sex (chromosomal and anatomical). Gender identity can also be fluid and change over time for an individual. Clinicians can support their clients by being affirming throughout their client’s gender identity journey and celebrating the uniqueness of their clients as individuals.

Dr Joyce Man, ORS, Lane Cove, NSW

Dr. Joyce Man

Learning and Development Manager – Psychology
Registered Psychologist, BA(Psych), GradDipSc(Psych), MClinPsych, PhD, MAPS

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An ORS Personal Journey

“Embracing my fluidity and freedom”

By Reagan Court

My name is Regan and I live in South Fremantle with my very (very) energetic kelpie named ‘Auggie’.

When I’m not photographing Real Estate or Events, I’m making terrible puns, putting peanut butter on almost everything I eat, or patting someone’s dog. Also, I’m trans.

I am not defined by my gender identity, however, it is a huge part of my story. To me, being trans is about embracing my fluidity and freedom. It is very much a journey without a fixed destination. I use the term ‘non-binary’ to indicate how I am outside of the gender binary of man/woman. I use ‘trans’ because I was assigned female at birth and made a decision to transition elsewhere.

Living a visible gender non-conforming life is certainly challenging at times (although it shouldn’t be). There are certain experiences that are unique to gender diverse individuals. These can include feeling unsafe in public restrooms, fear of discrimination in the workforce, and increased risk of physical safety. Indicating as to why it is so important we have Trans Week of Awareness and Trans Day of Remembrance to honour the memory of the trans lives lost to acts of transphobia and discrimination. Increasing awareness around this ongoing threat to trans & gender diverse individuals will slowly help erode the systemic transphobia that has been ingrained in us and create a better, safer and more inclusive world for everyone.

As challenging as it can be at times, living as my authentic self has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Being trans is an absolute gift that should be celebrated.

I am currently in the process of changing my name to Regan. I can’t even describe in words how amazing it feels to have introduced myself here using a name that fits my gender identity.