By Rachel Goodman, LAMFT —

Being transgender, in simple terms, means that the assigned sex at birth, does not match the persons gender identity. This is more often seen in childhood years, but it can also occur after puberty and later in life in some cases. Gender Dysphoria can develop in transgender people when there is an excess amount of stress and anxiety, in the person’s life, resulting around this mismatched sex and gender identity. What some individuals find it hard to understand is that being transgender is not just about the way one looks. Individuals experiencing this, can have severe distress, and feel they were born into the wrong body. It can feel as if that person was not supposed to be the sex they were born with. This preoccupation with being the opposite sex can cause extreme stress resulting from the mismatch in their body. It can interfere with everyday life and cause hardships including inability to function at work, or school.  Gender dysphoria can even lead to more severe mental illness, including eating disorders, and anxiety. Imagine being born one way, but knowing you were supposed to be born a different way, and having to live with that until the transition process is complete. According to studies, 41% of transgender people commit suicide in the first two years of transition. This shows how much distress having gender dysphoria can cause.

Some common terms associated with transgender can be ‘trans’ ‘trans female’, or ‘trans male.’ The terms ‘cisgender’ describes one’s assigned sex at birth and gender identity are the same. You will sometimes hear ‘cis female’ or ‘cis male’ to describe a non transgender person.

The transition process often takes years to fully complete. Most often, a transgender person will use medical intervention, with some of the first steps being, taking hormones such as estrogen or testosterone daily. Depending on what the person wants, there may be surgical intervention. Not every person who goes through a transition, will want the same thing. Some may want to use surgical intervention sooner to get faster results, or some may use estrogen or testosterone only, and see slower changes in their body over time. There is much more that goes into a transition aside from taking daily hormones. This can include repetitive laser hair removal until the hair does not grow back, voice therapy to begin to change their voice, and other types of therapy to help them through the transition process. Education about being transgender is imperative. With the high suicide rate in the first two years of transitioning, it is important that transgender individuals have constant support. Support from medical professionals is imperative, but most importantly, supportive friends or family who have educated themselves and have a better understanding about what they are going through, can make all the difference during one’s transition process.

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Rachel was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (LAMFT) with a Masters of Advanced study in Marriage and Family Therapy, from Arizona State University.  Her passions are to support couples in improving connection and building a strong foundation, as well as help individuals and families know they have a safe place to feel heard. Another one of her passions is helping the transgender youth community.