The Psychotherapist Association for
Gender & Sexual Diversity

How Is a Gender Specialist DifferENT From a Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Friendly Therapist?

Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Friendly Therapist:

A licensed therapist who is open to working with transgender and gender nonconforming clients
OR
A licensed therapist who has already worked with some transgendered and gender nonconforming clients in their practice and who stays open to continuing to do so.

Gender Specialist:

A licensed therapist who has a VAST amount of knowledge about gender dysphoria, gender identity, gender nonconformity, transphobia (and how it works in real life) and how to help clients with transition (in its variety of forms).
AND
The Gender Specialist has been and is currently so well-versed in gender identity issues that they could potentially teach a CE course on gender identity to other health care professionals, as well as a college-level course on gender identity.
AND
The Gender Specialist knows and consults with other gender specialists, and usually belongs to an ongoing consultation group with other gender specialists.
AND
The Gender Specialist is a current member of WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health). The Gender Specialist keeps updated on what the organization is working on, the changes that are constantly happening, and the pros and cons of these changes.

Questions Clients Should Ask a Potential Therapist:

A Gender Specialist should be able to answer “yes” to ALL these questions.

  • Do you have sound guidance and know how to help me talk to my family, friends and employment about transitioning? Do you have educational materials you can provide me to provide my family, friends and employment about transitioning?
  • Do you have access to updated and relevant resources for me in the Bay Area?
  • Can you speak to me knowledgeably about hormones? The different types of delivery options? Hormonal blockers? All the options? The pros and cons of each? Dosages?
  • Can you speak to me knowledgeably about different types of surgeries? All the options? The pros and cons of each? The different techniques for each type of surgery? The pros and cons of each technique?
  • Can you speak to me knowledgeably about different types of known “Gender Specialist surgeons” throughout the world and the other Transgender/Gender nonconforming friendly surgeons out there? All the options? Pros and cons of each?
  • Are you knowledgeable about the different types of laws with regards to changing documents, insurance policies, and anti-discrimination? Are you aware when they change? Would you be able to help me fill out the paperwork?
  • Do you know how to help me maneuver the healthcare system? (E.g., talking to doctors, working with uninformed insurance companies, dealing with insensitive and sometimes hostile staff, as well as anyone associated with the healthcare system.)
  • Are you willing to educate my employer about transitioning issues? Have you done this before?
  • Are you willing to meet my family members, educate them and deal with their potentially strong negative reactions (and possibly having such negative reactions projected on to you)? Have you done this before?
  • Do you know how to educate me on specific tools to help keep myself as safe as possible from violence within the dangers of the transphobic world?
  • Can you speak to me knowledgeably about employment issues and companies with anti-discrimination policies for their transgendered employees? Can you speak to me about which companies pay for needed surgeries? Do you know of resources where I might learn about companies (a) with specific anti-discrimination policies for transgendered/gender diverse employees and (b) offering health insurance plans likely to pay for gender-affirming medical intervention/surgeries?

Written by Gaylesta member, Koen Baum, LMFT, Gender Specialist since 2000. To learn more about his practice, please visit Koen’s Gaylesta web page.