Gender Identity

Individuals who challenge the widely normalized and socially accepted binary presentations of gender are often considered “other” and forced to the margins of culture as “issues”, something to be “figured out” or “made sense of”. However unintentional or involuntary these actions may be – those who do not conform to the dichotomy of the main stream gender paradigm may feel as though they are a weight that must be bared or a person who is stripped of receiving respect in their true and heart-felt state of being. There is a void that has formed in society’s comfort zone, where intolerance, disrespect, and fear are found and love, acceptance, and understanding are missing.
Gender Identity

…They make us not only question what is real, and what “must” be, but they also show us how the norms that govern contemporary notions of reality can be questioned and how new modes of reality can become instituted. These practices of instituting new modes of reality take place in part through the scene of embodiment, where the body is not understood as a static and accomplished fact, but as an aging process, a mode of becoming that, in becoming otherwise, exceeds the norm, reworks the norm, and makes us see how realities to which we thought we were confined are not written in stone.”

– Undoing Gender by Judith Butler (pg. 29, Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy)


Making assumptions in the counseling room, the doctor’s office, or in other helping spaces sometimes feels unavoidable or automatic. We will all encounter individuals who live outside of one’s definitions of gender. So how do we practice in such a way that expresses compassion, respect, and ethical competence as we seek to understand with and what our client, friend, child, or student may still be trying to process?

Helping Professionals

It is crucial for us to begin to intentionally place ourselves in and endure existing in a state of not knowing. A place that is often uncomfortable, sometimes frightening, and almost always fraught with uncertainty. I believe as helping professionals we can all benefit from being uncomfortable in ambiguity, allowing our clients to come in and create the scripts and through lines of the space which we hold for them with kindness and interest.

By allowing such a space to be more free of expectations, we offer up room for our clients to fill. We hold a safe place for them to present, perform, and live in ways that honor their true essence. By doing this I believe that not only will our client flourish in the freedom of unconditional respect, but we will be given more opportunities to see the increase of growth, knowledge, and possibility in the relationship.

“Some people have asked me what is the use of increasing possibilities of gender. I tend to answer: Possibility is not a luxury; it is crucial as bread. I think we should not underestimate what the thought of the possible does for those whom the very issue of survival is most urgent.”

– Undoing Gender by Judith Butler (pg. 29, Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy)

Below are resources for those who want to learn more about the present necessity not only for possibility, acceptance, understanding, but for advocacy and education about gender diversity.

Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies from the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development:


APA’s definitions of Gender Diverse and Sexual Orientation terms: https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf

APA’s Guidelines for counseling Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming clients: https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/transgender.pdf

Resources from Genderspectrum.org : https://www.genderspectrum.org/resources/

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