What Is Gender Identity – A person’s gender identity is the gender that they perceive themselves to be – it is the gender that they identify with internally, that decides which pronouns they choose to be associated with, and it is the gender that they often express externally (barring an unsafe or hostile environment). It is different from biological sex, which is the sex assigned to an individual at birth based on the physical appearance of their reproductive organs. Although there are many terms that a person may use to communicate their gender identity and preferred pronouns to others, some common ones to be aware of include:
- Cisgender: individuals whose gender identity matches their biological sex
- Transgender: individuals whose gender identity is different than their biological sex
- Non-binary: individuals who do not identify as male or female
- Gender fluid/gender diverse: individuals whose gender identity does not fall within the other categories or societal norms
At Horizon Plymouth, our team of expert counsellors often works with individuals across the spectrum of gender identity, whether they are dealing with issues related to their gender identity or simply working to improve their overall mental health.
Exploring gender identity through counselling
Living a life in which your gender identity is not affirmed and supported in your day-to-day tasks and relationships can take a huge toll on your mental health, even if you are still exploring your gender identity and what its implications are for your life. Individuals in these situations are often at much higher risks for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Working with a counsellor can help to empower you as you explore your emotions and experiences in a safe, unbiased place free from judgement. Some of the things that individuals often speak to counsellors with regarding gender identity include:
- Experiencing isolation in social and work settings
- Feeling self-conscious about the way you look, walk, talk, and dress as a result of your gender presentation
- Feeling insecure due to mismatch of internal identity and external presentation
- Experiencing anxiety in new situations
- Being bullied, excluded, or harassed due to your gender identity
- Experiencing difficulty confronting people who address them with incorrect pronouns
If these symptoms and experiences escalate to the level of psychological distress, it becomes a condition called gender dysphoria. These individuals experience deficits in their functional abilities as a result of the deep and pervasive discomfort they feel in their own bodies. Individuals who are experiencing gender dysphoria have significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Those experiencing gender dysphoria also have a much higher risk of having at least one negative mental health problem when compared to their cisgender peers. In these instances, it is vital that these individuals seek out professional guidance in the form of counselling or therapy services, as well as medical intervention as needed.
Additionally, it is often helpful for family members or partners of those individuals who fall on the spectrum of gender identity to speak with a counsellor in order to better understand the issues that your loved one may be facing. This helps build meaningful, supportive relationships with your loved one and support the through the struggles that they face.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health as a result of gender identity issues, or simply would like a safe and affirming place to explore their thoughts and feelings with an unbiased party, please do not hesitate to reach out to the professional team at Horizon Plymouth. We have experience in providing counselling services across the lifespan and through a variety of diagnoses. Contact us at Horizon Plymouth to schedule your initial appointment and start seeking wellness today!