Dresses & Ties: How to Come to Terms with Crossdressing Desires

Societies like to make the complex simple. They insist on taking gray situations and ideas and making them black or white. In this way, people and situations can be more easily controlled and predicted, and the normal order can reign supreme.

Except, that isn’t realistic. We all know that human beings are very complex creatures and that life isn’t black or white. While others may like to put us in a box to make things easier for them, some of us simply don’t fit.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know quite a few crossdressers through my practice. They have come to me with feelings of guilt and confusion over their desire to wear the “wrong” clothes, the clothes that only the opposite gender is “supposed” to wear. Though they tried on their own to handle these desires and even conquer them, the majority felt powerless to stop.

Before we discuss “dealing” with your crossdressing desires, however, we need to make sure we are talking about the same thing.

Crossdressing vs. Transgenderism

Transgender refers to a person who identifies with a gender that does not match their biological sex at birth. While a person may have been born a female with a female anatomy and female chromosomes, that person identifies as a “he” in their daily life and may even choose to have gender-corrective surgery at some point.

People who crossdress often have a gender identity consistent with their biological. For example, a heterosexual man may identify as a male and be attracted to only females and still take pleasure in cross-dressing in women’s clothing. (In fact, you’d probably be surprised by how common and truly normal that situation is.) He does not wish to be female and he is not attracted to men, but he has a strong desire to explore his own femininity and feel beautiful.

Are Crossdressing Desires Really Something You Need to “Deal” With?

That’s not an easy question to answer, as everyone’s situation is different. What’s really important is to feel good about yourself and accept yourself for who you are. If you have feelings of shame or guilt, it’s important to talk to someone about those.

You may feel perfectly happy with yourself, but your partner may not like the fact that you crossdress. What do you do in that situation? Leave the relationship, or stop a behavior that makes you happy and is harmless to others?

The best advice I give my clients is to take some time to figure out what cross-dressing means to you. What value does it bring to your life? How does it affect your relationships? Does it negatively or positively impact the connection you have with others?

Though society would like to put you into a box, you are a unique individual and your journey in life is yours alone. Only you can decide if cross-dressing is right for you.

If you’d like to discuss your cross-dressing desires, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

The “Q” in LGBTQA: How Do I Know if I’m Not Straight?

The study of sexual orientation has been quite a controversial area of psychology, and one that continues to raise numerous questions: What makes a person identify as gay, and what percent of the population currently identify as such? Is sexual orientation determined solely by biology, or what role do early learning and other social experiences play?

As complex of an issue as sexual orientation is, it’s easy to see why many people -particularly young people – struggle in determining their own preferences. For many teens who are perhaps experiencing their sexuality for the first time thanks to those new, surging hormones, exploring their identity can be exciting, scary, and completely overwhelming.

Determining Sexual Orientation

While many people simply “know” their sexual orientation, a certain percentage of young people find themselves in a nebulous area. There is no test that can be taken to determine if you are gay, straight, bisexual, or something else entirely. And there is no one way that gay people look or act. The gay population is just as diverse as the straight population.

It’s important that young people understand this. Just because a young man might be gentle and effeminate does not necessarily make him gay, just as a classically masculine and brash jock is not necessarily straight.

In order to try and determine your own sexual orientation, it’s important to first understand what that phrase means exactly. The American Psychological Association defines sexual orientation as an “enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional” attraction toward another person.

With this definition in mind, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine if you might be gay:

Have I ever been sexually attracted to the same sex?
Do I feel strong emotional bonds to the same sex?
When I fantasize, am I with people of the same or opposite sex?
Am I physically attracted to the same sex?
Have I considered having a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex? How did this make me feel?
Have I had sexual same-sex experiences in the past? How did I feel during and after?

Discovering You’re Gay

Depending on where you live (small town vs big city) and what kind of support system you have (loving and open-minded friends and family vs unsupportive and old-fashioned), you may find it difficult to discover you are gay. You may be tempted to hide your real self and feelings from others.

But having worked with gay and bisexual teens in my practice, I can tell you that hiding your true feelings and identity is typically a very painful place to live.

Know this: If you determine that you are gay or bisexual or any other letter of LGBTQA, you are not alone. There are many others like you who are leading healthy and happy lives. If you come out to friends and family and they don’t support you, there are other resources you can turn to.

Advocates for Youth has web sites by and for young gay people, www.youthresource.com and www.ambientejoven.org. More than 15,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth visit these sites each month to get informed and find community & resources. If you live in a major city (or near one) you may also be able to find local gay youth groups to join.

Also, consider working with a therapist if you find dealing with your sexuality overwhelming in any way. He or she can offer guidance, support, and coping strategies.

More and more gay youths are coming out and finding support and loving themselves. While things may seem scary right now, your life can feel exactly as normal and happy as anyone else’s.

 

If you or someone you know thinks they might be not straight and would like to explore counseling, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help you.

How to Talk to Your Young Child About LGBTQ People

As a parent or caregiver, it can be difficult to know the right thing to say when kids question what we deem to be adult topics. Broaching topics of sexuality can be awkward and embarrassing for both parties, however it is a necessary conversation to have.

When it comes to talking about homosexuality and transgenderism, children should be given age appropriate information so they can better understand and empathize with others. Regardless of whether or not your child is LGBTQ, having a conversation about LGBTQ issues will help reduce prejudice while teaching compassion and empathy.

When to Talk

It’s never too late to start a conversation on issues of sexuality with your children. While there may be initial discomfort and reluctance from preadolescent children and older, ultimately having these discussions with your children will help them develop a sense of safety and security with you, while it teaches them tolerance and acceptance.

For young children, the age of 5 is a good time to begin discussing these topics by sharing some basic information with them.

What to Say

For young children, keep the conversation simple and focus on basic concepts. When talking about homosexuality, you can explain to your child that just as a man and a woman can fall in love, so can a man with a man, and a woman with a woman. When talking about transgenderism, you can explain that how a person looks on the outside isn’t always how they feel on the inside. You can refer to the familiar adage about “not judging a book by its cover.”

Children should understand the basic concept that even though people may be or look different than us, they are people just like we are and equally deserving of love, acceptance, and respect.

You Don’t Have to Know Everything

Your child may have questions that you can’t answer. It’s okay to admit to your child when you don’t know the right answer. This could be a discussion point for later after you’ve done some research, or it could be a good opportunity for you to learn from your child.

 

Are you a parent in need of parenting advice and support? A trained, licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today, and we can set up an appointment to talk.

How to Come Out as an LGBTQA Adult

Most of us had a childhood filled with both subtle and overt lessons of how people and things “should” be. Our family, culture, and society expect us to fit into a certain mold and behave a certain way. Because of the type of upbringing that many people experience, it can be very difficult for people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and asexual (LGBTQA) community to come out to family and friends, and to live openly as who they are.

What Does It Mean to “Come Out”?

For LGBTQA people, to “come out” is to acknowledge and let others know about their sexual or gender identity. There is no wrong way or time to come out; how, when, or if you do so is uniquely personal to you. To not come out means you’re withholding who you are from people you know and may care about, and you may have to lie and pretend. For some people, it’s less stressful to hide than to be open. Don’t feel pressure to come out; you are the only one who can decide what is the best life for you.

Coming Out as an Adult

Coming out later in life poses some unique challenges. By adulthood, many people are already established in their career and may even be married and have children. Family, friends, and co-workers see you in a certain way, and may be shaken when they realize that you are not the person they thought they knew. Not everyone you come out to will be accepting, and some relationships may permanently change.

However, if you’re ready to come out, it means you don’t want to hide anymore and are ready to enrich your life with authenticity. This will inherently bring many benefits to you and your relationships such as reduced stress from hiding your identity, increase your self-esteem by being known and loved for who you truly are, and developing richer and more genuine relationships.

What to Say

You may want to start by writing out what you want to say so you can organize your thoughts and feelings. Some people prefer to tell their loved ones face to face, while others would rather send an email or make a phone call. Whatever way you choose, be sure to come out at a time when you’re not angry or arguing with someone. Also keep in mind that if you receive a negative or less than accepting response, this is just their initial reaction; they may need additional time to process what you’ve shared with them.

Coming out is never easy. It may be difficult and awkward at first, but it will ultimately bring you joy and free you from the burden of hiding an integral part of you who are.

If you’re looking for support and guidance on coming out as an LGBTQA adult, a licensed mental health professional can help. Give my office a call today, and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

How to Support LGBTQ Teens Coming Out

The LGBTQ movement has made some landmark strides in the past decade. The “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, health insurance discrimination has been prevented, and same-sex marriage has been legalized nationwide. This, in combination with greater awareness and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in society and the media, has helped LGBTQ teens find the courage to come out to their families and friends.

Though it is easier for teens to come out today than in generations past, that does not mean they do not need support, and plenty of it. Here are a few important ways you can support LGBTQ teens in coming out:

1. Encourage Authenticity

There are different levels of coming out. Some teenagers may find the courage to say the words, yet still have a hard time fully expressing themselves. If left unchecked, this muted self-expression can lead to anxiety and depression down the road. Try to find ways to let young people in your life know they can be 100% authentic around you.

2. Help Create Safe Spaces

Take a look around your local community to see if there are safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. If not, what can you do to change that? You might want to consider contacting school board officials and encourage them to adopt inclusive policies. Another way to ensure your community is safe for LGBTQ teens is to not tolerate hate speech. There are also many resources online that offer the best practices in creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth.

3. Join the Fight

Though the LGBTQ movement has come a long way, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure full LGBTQ equality. You can join the fight and stay up-to-date on local, state and federal advocacy.

If you know an LGBTQ teen who needs some extra support and encouragement while coming out, you might suggest they speak with a professional counselor who can facilitate communication with family members and also offer coping tools and strategies.

To Age Well, You’re Gonna Need Friends

How many times do we hear about senior citizens who move cross-country to be closer to children and grandchildren? Maybe this person will see their family on a daily or weekly basis. But then again, maybe it won’t be that often, and now they’ve given up their social life and are far away from friends.

As an older person, what’s healthier, being around family or being around friends?

There was a time when most people would have quickly answered, “Being around family, of course.” While no two people are alike, there is evidence that meaningful connection with friends has more of an impact on the aging process.

According to a 2017 study sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, friendship is more important to the health and well-being of senior citizens than familial connections.

The study found that not only do these relationships influence your happiness and habits (whether you’ll smoke or drink, work out, stay thin or become obese) but that the importance of friendship increases with age.

But there is a caveat, and it’s an important one.

The impact of friendship works positively and negatively. Meaning, just as good friendships offer health benefits, friendships that are not so great or even toxic are tied to chronic health problems. The key is to keep friendships in good order, which means you may need to repair or replace friendships as you age.

Another study, this one designed by Michigan State University psychology professor William J. Chopik, looked at two sets of data—one drawn from people around the world at different ages, and another from older Americans.

More than 270,000 volunteers between the ages of 15 to 99 and from roughly 100 different countries answered questions about how highly they valued different kinds of relationships and how happy they were. Instead of tracking the same people over time, the study tracked “representative” groups of different ages at intervals over the years.

The results?

Those people 65 and older valued friendship more than they did when they were younger!

In another analysis, researchers examined data from close to 7,500 American volunteers in their sixties and seventies. The results found that those people who experienced a “strain” within their friendships were more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and psychiatric problems. This was true regardless of whether they had support from family members or not. Strain with family, surprisingly, wasn’t tied to more illness.

The moral of the story is, many of us take our friendships for granted. We think these relationships should be easy, and that our familial relationships are where we should focus our time and energy. But the older we get, the more important it becomes to have strong friendships. When our friendships are happy and healthy, we’re happy and healthy.

Is there a relationship in your life that is bringing you down instead of up? Are you unsure how to communicate with your loved one? Maybe it’s time to end a relationship but you don’t know the best way to do it.

Often, speaking with a therapist can give you clarity over a situation. A therapist can lend an impartial ear and offer advice based not on emotion, but on knowledge of human behavior.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

4 Ways to Support Your LGBTQ Child When They’re Facing a School Bully

It’s easy for adults to forget what adolescence was like. The frustrations of figuring out the sometimes-foreign world around us combined with the cocktail of raging hormones that set our emotions off at the drop of a hat. Man, being a kid was hard!

What can make an already-hard situation even harder for a young person is being “different” in some way. For young people who identify as LGBTQ, school bullying can be devastating. Rumors, gossip, name-calling, or unwanted sexual jokes or comments can make learning and socializing incredibly difficult. Homophobic bullying can affect a young person’s confidence and well-being.

Here are 4 ways parents can support their LGBTQ child should they become the victim of bullying:

1. Listen

Listen to your child and offer your support. This means validating their feelings and letting them know it is 100% okay to question their sexual orientation or gender identity.

You WANT your child to WANT to talk to you. So, when they do, give them your full attention and support.

2. Work with Your Child’s School

Any bullying incidents should be reported to your child’s school immediately because they have a professional and legal responsibility to keep your child safe. Work with school administrators to develop a safety plan and encourage the school board to include specific written protections for LGBTQ students in its bullying prevention policies and student codes of conduct.

You will also want to keep a written record of all bullying incidents as well as follow-up meetings, locations, witnesses, and what was said and/or done.

3. Contact the Police

Should your child be physically threatened or hurt, sexually assaulted, or had their personal property damaged or stolen, immediately contact your local police. If the police in your area has a hate crimes unit, contact them after your report has been filed, and tell them you believe the incident to be a hate-motivated crime based on your child’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Using your notes, describe in detail the incident that has caused your child to feel unsafe.

4. Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem

Being the victim of bullying can put a significant dent in your child’s self-esteem. It’s important that you help them develop their strengths and talents by creating opportunities for them to excel. This could mean signing them up for a sport, dance classes or helping them discover what hobbies they enjoy and excel at.

Bullying can be a very disturbing experience for anyone, particularly youths who are simply searching for their identity and sense of belonging. Finding the most helpful way to support your LGBTQ child during such a time can be challenging in and of itself, and many parents find it helpful to work with a family therapist who can support the entire family in finding ways to deal with the situation.

If you or a loved one have experienced bullying and would like help, please contact me today.

How to Discuss Gender Identity With Your Child

There was a time parents wondered at what age they should have “the talk,” with their child. You know, the one about the birds and the bees. As society has changed and gender and sexual issues have become prominent topics, many parents now wonder how young is too young to talk about things like gender identity with their child.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that discussing gender identity is NOT the same thing as discussing sexual intercourse. Gender is not about sexual orientation (whom you are attracted to) but about how people connect with one another and orient themselves in the world.

So how should you talk to your kids about gender identity? While there is no right or wrong age to have this conversation, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind that will help make it go smoothly.

Be Comfortable

In order to talk comfortably about this topic, you’ve got to first make sure you are comfortable with the language and concepts of gender identity yourself. It will help if you can familiarize yourself with some people who are transgender.

You most likely know about Caitlyn Jenner, but search the Internet for other stories of real people. Here is a young transgendered girl named Jazz. Her story might give you some important insights that will help you talk with your own child.

Be Open Minded

While some children may go to their parents with questions about gender simply because of things they’ve seen or heard outside of the home, others will have questions about themselves. Parents should never make assumptions about their child’s gender identity based on their interests or activities.

For instance, because a boy likes playing sports doesn’t mean that he doesn’t identify as a girl and vice versa. So, for instance, when discussing a topic like, “who do you have a crush on at school,” be open minded and ask if it’s a boy or a girl. Whatever their answer is, your child will appreciate that you accept them no matter what.

Be Prepared

Before giving a presentation or going for an important job interview, most people practice and make sure they know what they are going to say and how they are going to answer questions. While you don’t want to come off as robotic with your child, you do want to look and act very comfortable. Your child will definitely pick up on any discomfort you may be feeling.

For this reason, you may want to have practice conversations with friends or family. You may find you have friends who are also preparing to have the same conversation with their child. Use each other to practice on.

Seek Help

Some families may find it beneficial to work with a family therapist, who can facilitate clear, honest communication.

If you and your child would like the added support of a neutral third party who can guide the conversation toward positive outcomes, please get in touch with me today.