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What We Treat

Gender and Sexuality in Childhood and Adolescence

Early adolescence is often the stage where children begin to change how they view and express themselves, both socially and physically, as they explore who they are and how they present authentically in the world. Questioning is a part of adolescence, and questions concerning gender identity and sexual orientation usually begin during the transition from childhood to young adulthood, as children and teenagers continue to learn about themselves.  

What is Gender Identity? 

Everyone has a gender identity, which is a deeply felt, internal sense of being male, female, or somewhere else along the gender spectrum. Sometimes gender identity does not align or only partially aligns with the sex assigned at birth, and how someone may outwardly express their gender identity can vary. Some terms often used to describe gender identity include: 

  • Cisgender: gender identity aligns with the sex assigned at birth 
  • Transgender: gender identity does not align with the sex assigned at birth  
  • Gender nonconforming, non-binary, gender-fluid: gender identity falls in between or diverges from the sex assigned at birth  

What is Sexual Orientation? 

Sexual orientation involves romantic and emotional attraction to others, and sexuality is not always limited to attraction towards individuals of the opposite sex or gender. Gender and sexuality can evolve alongside one another, but they are not the same thing. Sexual orientation, like gender identity, however, can change over time. Common terms associated with sexual orientation are: 

  • Straight or Heterosexual: sexually attracted to individuals of the opposite sex or gender 
  • Gay: sexually attracted to individuals of the same sex or gender  
  • Bisexual or Bi/Pansexual: sexually attracted to more than one sex or gender  
  • Asexual or “Ace”: not sexually attracted or only partially attracted to people, regardless of sex or gender  

What is Queerness?  

Queer or genderqueer is a versatile gender and sexual identity that may encompass a wide variety of different expressions that do not conform or align with conventional norms. Young LGBTQ+ individuals may choose the term queer to identify themselves, particularly as they continue to redefine and make new discoveries about who they are.  

What is Gender and Sexual Identity Affirming Psychotherapy? 

As with any stage of life and process of change, certain mental health concerns can arise that may affect functioning and overall happiness. In regards to gender and sexuality development, supportive and affirming psychotherapy can provide young people with the opportunity to meet psychosocial challenges with self-confidence and a healthy outlook. Subjects frequently explored in identity-affirming therapy include:  

  • The coming out process 
  • Decisions around use of personal pronouns 
  • Body image 
  • Sex and dating 
  • Relationships with peers and family members 
  • Gender transition  

Concerns related to depression and anxiety, as well as bullying, suicidality, non-suicidal self-injury, eating disorders, and substance use can also arise as individuals are confronted with stigma or experience increasing complexity around their identities. Affirming psychotherapists are highly attuned to these concerns and provide personalized treatment with a range of evidence-based and insight-oriented approaches, tailored to the individual who is struggling.  

What is Gender Affirming Medical Intervention?

Individuals who experience gender dysphoria, or the feeling of marked distress in one’s assigned sex at birth or gender identity, are at higher risk of developing more serious mental health issues if they do not receive further specialized affirming care. Medical interventions, including psychiatric and pharmaceutical treatment of associated depression, anxiety, and other mood/behavioral concerns may be appropriate for some children or adolescents, including those who experience gender dysphoria. Other types of affirming medical intervention, such as puberty blockers or sex hormone treatment may also be appropriate, and referrals to providers who provide these services are readily available.  

How to Support an LGBTQ+ Child or Adolescent 

Parents and caregivers can be the most integral advocates and allies for LGBTQ+ youth, but the correct or most affirming ways to provide support can be unclear. Embracing education around gender identity and sexual orientation is crucial to affirming a child or adolescent’s questioning, exploration, coming out, or transition. Adopting a non-judgmental stance and creating a free environment to make choices around developing gender and sexuality are likely to create less distress and lead to fewer complex mental health concerns in adulthood. Information and educational materials for families are also available, as well as supportive resources for their own mental health and wellness.  

Our Mission  

TMP provides supportive and effective treatment for young LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. We offer affirming psychotherapy and psychiatry to children, teens, and young adults and have the utmost respect for the range of gender and sexuality that exists within us all.