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Sex Doc Michele Angello Blogs on TGF

| Feb 10, 2007
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Dr. Michele Angello

Hello! It’s great to be a part of this wonderful community resource. My name is Michele Angello and I was recently approached by Angela Gardner to throw my ideas and thoughts out to you. I have a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality (yes, there is such a thing) and about eighty five percent of my clinical practice involves people who fit somewhere along the transgender spectrum. I’ve been a clinician for ten years but my focus on trans-issues really only began seven years ago. At that time I completed a dissertation titled Transgender Identity Dynamics Through the Lifespan. I won’t bore you with the details of the study, but it was truly eye-opening to me and helped clarify my desire to work in the trans-community. I’m honored to be doing the work I do with transgender adults, adolescents and kids as well as spouses and families. It’s amazing to witness the courage that it takes to come out, and I’m humbled to be able to share so many individuals’ very personal journeys!

So, here’s my query for this week; I’m curious about your thoughts on young people who question their gender identity. You see, I work with a number of youth who identity as transgender (or genderqueer) and it’s amazing what a controversial area this is for physicians, therapists and even transgender adults. I can certainly understand the reluctance on the part of surgeons to perform any type of irreversible surgery to a minor, but how about therapists and other healthcare providers who appear to be completely at a loss with how to support these kids? And, even more interesting (to me, at least) is the number of transgender adults who see these young people as “too young” to make such a major decision in haste. I agree that it requires lots of introspection and should never be made instantly. I think that any credible therapist who proceeds without this in mind is negligent. But, what about the families who have been dealing with this issue since their child has been able to verbalize her/his discomfort with gender identity? I wonder where the harm is in allowing these kids to experiment with reversible aspects like clothing and maybe even a different name at home. I’m aware that there’s a fine line. I’ve seen the parents who are so rigid with “gender boundaries” that if their boy expresses an interest in dolls, they actually feel more comfortable naming the concern gender dysphoria rather than just a boy who likes to play with what we think of as girl-toys. Once again, I think this is unfortunate and absolutely caution these families against encouraging a cross-gender identity.

But getting back to my point, the even more fascinating thing for me to watch is when trans-adults get caught criticizing the families who have a child obviously distressed about her/his gender identity (not gender role or gender expression). I was at a gathering last weekend where we were discussing youth who have gender “concerns”. Several of the trans-adults in the room balked at the suggestion of a 12 year old genetic boy being certain that in fact he’s a girl. It was like they were saying (without actually coming out and expressing it this way) that, “I had to suffer through my gender dysphoria until age 35, and there’s no reason this kid should get off easier than me.” Now don’t misunderstand, no one said any such thing, but it felt almost implied. Which leads me to wonder what you think of this? What age is too young to identify as transgender?

I look forward to hearing what you think. If you’d like to contact me off-line about a concern unrelated to this blog submission, you’re welcome to do so at [email protected]


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Category: Transgender Body & Soul

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About the Author ()

Michele Angello, Ph.D. is a clinical sexologist with offices in Wayne and Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Dr. Angello works with clients to help them reframe feelings of guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment, and even hatred around sexuality, and encourage feelings of acceptance, responsibility, joy, and sharing. She specializes in issues around gender and sexual orientation.

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