Recently the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists printed a letter to the Editor promoting Gender Exploratory Therapy. For those of us in the community we saw the language and knew this was a bad thing. But if you go to their website they state things in a gentle way that does not show their true agenda. Their agenda is clearly to not allow children to transition at all. That is conversion therapy which is illegal in CA. Many of us let CAMFT know what we thought about them publishing such a horrific letter. I am grateful to be a social worker our professional organizations would never publish something like that.
However, for a parent seeking out therapy for their gender-curious kid, this therapy might look like a good thing. It plays up all the reasons that a parent might be thinking about. A parent might worry it is a trend or their kid was influenced by others (there is no scientific evidence to back this claim). A parent will of course want there to be a thoughtful process with their child and they want to make sure that their child is not influenced. And although that is what good gender therapists do the right-wing extremists claim otherwise. A parent worries about what transition would be like for their child and fears that they will change their minds (again the rate of de-transitioning is very low and has not been studied alongside family support). So a parent can easily be sold on this group of therapists.
Questions a parent might ask a gender therapist for their child
- How many clients have you supported through transition?
- What are the main obstacles you see for a child struggling with gender?
- How do you feel about puberty blockers?
- What is your training in working with gender-diverse children?
- How do you collaborate with parents, medical providers, and the schools?
A good therapist will collaborate with other providers. A good therapist will be open to puberty blockers at the right time. A good therapist will cite that family support is the main protective factor for transgender children. A good therapist will work with the child and family where they are at and let the child show the way on their journey. They will let your kid be your kid in ways that are authentic for them. A good therapist never has an agenda for the outcome of therapy.
Gender Exploratory Therapy is a repacking of therapy known as conversion therapy. This therapy started with therapists trying to treat the gay out of clients and now expanded to doing the same to gender-diverse clients. This therapy is dangerous. Suicide rates for people that have experienced this therapy are high. It is important to get the word out to laypeople so that they understand how to best support their loved ones that are struggling with their gender identity.
Here is a great handout from the American Psychological Association with a more comprehensive list of questions
Below is a simple infographic I created about why Gender Exploratory Therapy is bad. Feel free to download the pdf and share yourself.
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