Gender Affirming Psychological Assessment
Gender is personal. There are infinite expressions of identity, many stages along your gender journey, and many ways to engage in transition. How you come to see and understand yourself along the way is unique to you; there is no one size fits all approach. You may be seeking support at any point along your journey and at Madison Park we offer a range of assessment and consultative services to address the needs of gender diverse individuals (and families). Our psychologists have specialized training in gender assessment, and we can support you at any stage in your process. Please read through the following information to get a better sense of what this work is about and what we offer.
Gender Affirmation, Gender Identity, and Associated Terms
Gender Affirmation refers to the process of being recognized and supported in one’s true gender identity and expression.
Gender Identity refers to your personal and internal sense of having a particular gender. Your gender identity may be the same or different than your birth-assigned sex.
Birth-Assigned Sex refers to the label you are given at birth based on medical factors such as hormones, chromosomes, and genitalia. When your gender identity does align with your birth-assigned sex, it is called being cisgender.
- When your gender identity does not align with your birth-assigned sex, there are many possible ways that you might identify. Your gender identity is very personal and unique to you. Some examples of terms used to describe identities across the gender spectrum include transgender or trans, non-binary, gender fluid, genderqueer, transfeminine, transmasculine, demiboy, demigirl, gender nonconforming, agender, masculine presenting, feminine presenting, bigender, butch, boi, masculine-of-center, feminine-of-center, femme, masc., female to male, male to female, multi-gender, pangender, polygender, third gender, two-spirit, gender neutral, or gender questioning.
Gender Expression refers to the way someone expresses their gender externally, through behavior, mannerisms, interests, physical characteristics, or appearance.
Gender Dysphoria is a feeling of discomfort or distress that can occur when your gender identity differs from your birth-assigned sex.
Gender Euphoria is a feeling of comfort or even joy when thinking about one’s true gender identity.
- Gender dysphoria and/or euphoria are commonly experienced by people with gender identities that differ from their birth-assigned sex, however not everyone with a gender variant identity will experience these feelings.
Personal Gender Pronouns are a frequent topic of conversation within gender identity issues and can be an important way for someone to educate others about their gender identity. Examples of personal gender pronouns include he/him, she/her, they/them, ze/zir, ve/vir, and per.
- Today, there is growing knowledge and awareness that people may have a different gender identity than they were assigned at birth, and that gender identity can be distinct from one’s external presentation. It is important not to assume someone’s gender identity based on their appearance.
Reasons Why You May Seek Gender Affirming Psychological Assessment
The development of your gender identity is a highly individual process, and it is completely normal for it to change and evolve over time. Academic literature has shown support for the fluid nature of gender (and sexuality), but we know colloquially that people are often unaware of their own true gender identity or do not feel safe expressing it. The reason for this is that in many parts of the world, gender identity and expression are interconnected with social and cultural norms. People often feel pressure to identify within the gender binary (i.e., either male or female) to avoid rejection or stigma. Your gender identity and expression were likely impacted by your family’s gender norms and the society and community you grew up in, including what types of media and literature you were exposed to. Oftentimes, if you grew up in a place or community where gender variant expressions were unwelcome, you may have felt discouraged from thinking about or exploring other expressions of identity than your birth-assigned sex. There are many different presentations and timelines for expressing a different gender identity than you were assigned at birth. Some people experience early-onset gender dysphoria and others have late-onset gender dysphoria. Each type of presentation is just as legitimate, and the accompanying concerns should be taken seriously. Sometimes one’s coming out process has a defining catalyst moment that they can remember, but other times one’s gender identity development happened slowly over time. Additionally, gender identity is interrelated to other aspects of your identity. Gender is related to your sense of self and where you see yourself fitting in the world. The concept of gender is nuanced and complex and it is important for everyone to be able to authentically express who they are.
People who identify across the gender spectrum are often navigating many complicated aspects of social transition and medical transition. A comprehensive gender/psychological assessment can be an important resource for gender diverse individual and families.
Gender Affirming Psychological Assessment
While psychotherapy can greatly assist with supporting one through social transition, a comprehensive gender/psychological assessment can provide additional information that may not be covered in therapy. An assessment will provide a thorough and in-depth understanding of the whole picture: current and historic aspects of gender development, a bird’s eye view of the important areas in one’s life (social, school/work, family, life experience), and a targeted evaluation of one’s mental health functioning and possible co-morbid psychological concerns. An assessment will also include diagnostic information and specific treatment recommendations, resources, and collaboration with other providers.
In addition to social transition, people across the gender spectrum may want to pursue medical intervention to help align their physical body with their gender identity. These types of interventions can include pubertal blocking medication, hormone-affirming therapy, and gender-affirming surgery. The World Professional Association of Transgender Healthcare (WPATH) is the leading organization for transgender healthcare and treatment. According to the most recent WPATH Standards of Care, it is recommended that any child, adolescent, or young adult interested in pursuing medical intervention participate in a comprehensive gender/psychological assessment with a gender-knowledgeable psychologist. This process will typically involve the whole family. However, adults may also benefit from an evaluation before pursuing surgical interventions and may need letters of support and recommendations from a psychologist. An assessment is an appropriate step to take for anyone, at any stage, at any age.
Madison Park’s Philosophy
At Madison Park, our psychological practice is informed by Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy which allows us to treat people holistically by addressing the body, mind, and spirit. Body refers to your physical self, Mind refers to your thoughts and emotions, and Spirt is the essence of who you are. A healthy body, a clear mind, and a fulfilled spirit will set the conditions for a meaningful life. With this in mind, we will help you to develop a core identity that lets you shine. Our mission is to help you step into your most empowered self so that you can thrive in a life without barriers.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
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