Transgendered and 1
RUNNING HEAD: Transgendered and gender-variant youth counseling
Counseling and advocacy with transgendered and gender-variant children and adolescents
Stuart F. Chen-Hayes
Lehman College of the City University of New York
Transgendered and 2
Chen-Hayes, S. F. (2001). Counseling and advocacy with transgendered and gender-variant persons in
schools and families. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education, and Development, 40(1),
Nontraditional gender identity and gender expression have often been ignored or pathologized in
the counseling literature for persons of all sexual orientations. Yet, gender identity and
gender expression can be critical components of counseling and advocacy in school and family
settings. The similarities of being targeted for violence and oppression due to transgenderism
and/or heterosexism due to nontraditional gender identity/expression or sexual orientation are
profound and potentially lethal. Counseling and advocacy utilizing strengths and unique
cultural contexts of transgendered and gender-variant persons promote an ethical and
successful path toward healing that challenges pathology-based frameworks. Suggestions and
resources for culturally sensitive counseling and advocacy with transgendered and gender-
variant persons of all sexual orientations are given.
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The professional counselor’s role has expanded to include advocacy for social justice and
challenging oppression and violence (Barret, 1998; Chen-Hayes, 2000; Lee & Walz, 1998; Lewis
& Arnold, 1998). School and family counselors can advocate against oppression that targets
gender-variant and transgendered youth and adults of all sexual orientations. They can promote
environments that affirm all sexual orientations and gender identities at individual, cultural,
and systemic levels (Chen-Hayes, 1997; Chen-Hayes, 2000; SIECUS, 1996). While the
American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice states counselors
must provide nondiscriminatory services based on variables such as ethnicity, race, gender,
sexual orientation, religion, disability, and social class (ACA, 1995), the omission of gender
identity /expression can no longer be ignored.
GENDER IDENTITY/EXPRESSION IN SCHOOL AND FAMILY COUNSELING
Many, but not all, lesbian, bisexual, and gay children and youth exhibit cross-gender
behavior (Pleak, 1999). In addition, heterosexual youth may also exhibit cross-gender behavior.
These gender variations, however, often target lesbian, bisexual, and gay youth and gender-
Transgendered and 4
variant heterosexuals for violence (Israel & Tarver, 1997; Remafedi, 1994; Ryan & Futterman,
1998). Similarly, transgendered and gender-variant youth and adults of all sexual orientations
are vulnerable to violence in cultures that enforce a dichotomous, conformist set of gender roles
and expression (Bornstein, 1995; Feinberg, 1996; Israel & Tarver, 1997; Remafedi, 1994;
Rottnek, 1999; Wilchins, 1997).
In schools and families where rigid gender expectations are the norm, gender-variant
children and youth are the targets of multiple victimizations or oppression. (Remafedi, 1994;
Israel & Tarver, 1997). Internalized oppressions (Creighton & Kivel, 1992; Lewis & Arnold,
1998) can include hypervigilance, poor self-esteem, self-hatred, alcohol and other drug
abuse/dependence, overachieving, self-mutilation, or suicide attempts. Suicide attempts of
transgendered youth are estimated as high or higher than for lesbian, bisexual, and gay youth
(Remafedi, 1994). Externalized oppressions can include: humiliation; emotional, physical, and
sexual abuse; peer pressure; lack of role models; rigid dress codes; and coercive mental health
or religious practices that attempt to “extinguish” gender nonconforming behaviors (Israel &
Tarver, 1997; Pleak, 1999; Remafedi, 1994; Rottnek, 1999). While transsexualism was
eliminated as a disorder from the most recent DSM-IV (APA, 1994), gender identity “disorder”
remains, allegedly with an etiology that starts in childhood. However, rather than using a
pathologizing medical model, preventive guidelines exist to assist school and family counselors
to encourage dialogues to promote comprehensive sexuality education. Comprehensive
guidelines are available for counselors, teachers, and families to develop appropriate sexuality
and gender information for all children, youth, and families (SIECUS, 1996).
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IGNORING AND PATHOLOGIZING GENDER-VARIANT AND TRANSGENDERED
Traditionally, a dichotomy of gender identity/expression has been a given in most
families, schools, and communities in European and Judeo-Christian cultures (Bullough &
Bullough, 1993; Feinberg, 1996; Namaste, 1996; Wilchins, 1997). Any variation from
traditional male and female gender roles, gender identities or expression, heterosexuality, or
challenges to sexuality as solely for procreation have been challenged, condemned, and subject
to punishment or failed attempts at extinction (Rekers, 1980,1995) or at least controlled or
modified (Zucker & Bradley, 1995).
Many European and Judeo-Christian values and world view constructs about gender and
sexual orientation have been codified by the psychiatric establishment (Bullough & Bullough,
1993) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) (APA, 1994;
Seligman, 1998). Yet, the DSM has always been malleable to social action and politics.
Sexual orientation was dropped as a mental disorder from the DSM in the early 1970s, as was
“ego-dystonic homosexuality” in the early 1980s. Transsexualism as a “disorder” was dropped
in the mid 1990s, and the remaining “disorders” related to gender are “gender identity disorder”
and “transvestic fetishism.” Gender identity disorder didn’t exist in earlier DSM editions.
Note, however, that only heterosexual men can be diagnosed as having “transvestic fetishism” by
DSM diagnostic criteria; lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual women and gay and bisexual men
may be sexually stimulated by cross-gendered clothing without it being considered a pathology.
Yet, practitioners Israel & Tarver ( 1997) and Pleak (1999); academics Fausto-Sterling (1999)
and Namaste (1996); and transgender/gender variant community members Bornstein (1994),
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Denny (1994), Feinberg (1996) and Wilchins (1997) all challenge this essential model of gender
and question the validity of any type of gender as a disorder. Many persons see gender as a
socially constructed continuum of varied possibilities (Fausto-Sterling, 1999; Pleak, 1999).
The need to enforce rigid codes of gender can then be seen as a means of social control,
i.e., oppression (Creighton & Kivel, 1992; Lewis & Arnold, 1998) that can have grave
consequences for persons of nontraditional gender identity/expression. Transgenderism, which
can be defined as prejudice toward persons with nontraditional gender identity/expression plus
power used by members of dominant gender groups to enforce the prejudice and limit access to
resources by gender-variant persons
(Chen-Hayes, 2000). Like transgenderism, heterosexism can be defined as prejudice toward
lesbian, bisexual and gay persons plus power used by heterosexuals to enforce the prejudice and
limit access to resources by lesbian, bisexual, and gay persons (Chen-Hayes, 1997).
Transgenderism and heterosexism are constructed based on dominant social values that
marginalize nontraditional gender identity/expression and sexual orientation . They traditionally
have legitimized invisibility, pathologizing, and other forms of violence and privileged
heterosexual and gender-traditional behavior as most valid or appropriate in schools and families
(Barret, 1998; Casper & Schultz, 1999; Chen-Hayes, 2000).
UNIQUE CULTURAL CONTEXTS OF TRANSGENDERED AND GENDER-VARIANT
Many professional counselors have had little or no coursework or education in sexual
orientation and gender identity/expression counseling. To be culturally competent in sexual
Transgendered and 7
orientation and gender identity/expression counseling, it is helpful to clarify basic concepts of
biological sex, gender, gender identity, gender role, and sexual orientation. While many persons
erroneously assume that transgendered persons are lesbian, bisexual, and gay, many
transgendered persons identify as heterosexual. However, because transgendered persons of all
sexual orientations challenge traditional gender norms and values, they are regular targets of
heterosexism, transgenderism, misogyny, and other oppressions in schools, families, and
institutions (Bornstein, 1994; Denny, 1994; Feinberg, 1996; Israel & Tarver, 1997; Wilchins,
In addition, multiple cultural identities are important for many gender-variant and
transgendered persons. Culturally competent counselors must negotiate the value and world
view frameworks that their clients present in schools and families, and there is terrific variation
across the transgender and gender-variant communities based on ethnicity, race, social class,
religion/spirituality, age, levels of ability/disability, family type, and appearance. While
multicultural counseling competencies have been developed (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992)
and operationalized (Arredondo et al, 1996), few specifics have been given for transgender and
gender-variant counseling competencies. Israel & Tarver (1997) list counseling guidelines for
working with transgendered youth, as well as insights on how to work effectively with
transgendered and gender-variant persons of all ages, social classes, and levels of
ability/disability. As counselors learn about “the gender community,” they can unlock loaded
terms that have kept nontraditionally gendered persons locked in a binary gender system. The
following terms include English-language gender identity and expression conceptualizations that
are not universal around the globe.
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Biological sex is a person’s genetic composition and physical body, including genitalia
and secondary sex characteristics at birth and/or later in the life cycle developed through the use
of hormones or surgical procedures. It is not necessarily fixed over a person’s lifetime. Gender
is a cultural term that societies apply in various ways to classify the attitudes, behaviors, social
functioning, and power relations between women, men, girls, boys, cross-dressers, transsexuals,
intersexed persons, gender blenders, drag queens and drag kings, and other transgendered
persons. Certain cultures maintain a rigid dichotomy of either/or in gender; other cultures
recognize and celebrate a gender continuum.
Gender identity is a person’s internal, subjective experience of how they feel and
express themselves as a “gendered” person in terms of gender roles, attitudes, and behavior. A
person's internal gender identity is like a world view; it may or may not match the person's
external gender expression in terms of clothing or other gendered signals and cues. It may be
experienced by some persons as their masculinity, femininity, and/or the combination of their
personal and cultural experience and expressions of masculinity and femininity. Persons may
choose to live with their internal and external gender identity congruent or incongruent based on
a variety of personal, social, cultural, spiritual, and political factors. Gender role/expression is
the outward presentation of one's gender identity in sociocultural context. Gender role is how a
person is expected to act in terms of their social behavior in a culture based on how that culture
names or defines behavior based on masculinity, femininity or a combination of multiple gender
identities. There is a continuum of gender roles and expression in cultures around the world.
Sexual orientation is a person's capacity for sexual and emotional attractions, fantasies,
and behaviors toward other persons. A multivariable dynamic that includes past, present, and
ideal feelings about who is attractive and/or desirable in sexual and/or romantic ways. It can
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include one’s sexual attractions, behaviors, fantasies, gender emotional preference, gender social
preference, sexual identity in a community (lesbian, bisexual, gay, heterosexual), and use of a
sexuality self-label (Klein, Sepekoff, & Wolf, 1985). There is no definitive answer for how
sexual orientation occurs in humans; it is on a continuum and can be fluid or fixed over a
person’s lifetime. The term sexual preference is vague and unhelpful because it implies that
people can choose their sexual orientation which is not the case for most persons. While anyone
may choose various sexual behaviors, sexual orientation is much more than behavior (Klein,
Sepekoff, & Wolf, 1985). Not all cultures use similar terms to describe sexual orientation.
Transgendered is an umbrella term inclusive of all members of the nondominant gender
identity communities, including transsexuals (pre, post and non-operative), cross-dressers, gender
blenders, drag queens and drag kings, and intersexed persons. Cross-dressers are primarily
heterosexual men who dress in traditionally gendered women’s clothing. Cross-dressing may
include an erotic component when wearing the clothing (this has been labeled transvestic
fetishism, a paraphilia, in the DSM-IV) (APA, 1994). However, many cross-dressers and allies
challenge this definition as transphobic and question who, if anyone, is harmed by sexual
pleasure gained in wearing cross-gendered clothing. Persons may cross-dress part-time or full-
time. The cross-dressing community is often secretive and more hidden than the transsexual
community. Major concerns are the ability to pass successfully as women and the ability to be
affirmed by other cross-dressers in the community.
Gender blenders have an external gender identity reflecting a combination of traditionally
feminine and masculine attire and/or accessories. Gender blenders question traditional gender
dichotomies by replacing them with a continuum. Two-spirit persons have traditionally been
recognized as shamans and healers in indigenous communities in their abilities to cross gender
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realms. Two-spirit persons may have a combination of nontraditional gender identity,
expression, and sexual orientation , and in many traditional indigenous communities they are
appreciated and affirmed within the community.
Intersexed persons are born with both traditional male and female genitals. Many
persons in traditional Euro-American cultures have been surgically altered at birth by physicians
to “fit” into one traditional gender identity. This practice has recently come under intense
challenge as culturally inappropriate as babies can’t be asked what their internal gender identity
is at birth (Israel & Tarver, 1997) . Drag queens are gay and bisexual men who wear traditional
women’s clothing and drag kings are lesbian and bisexual women who wear traditional men’s
clothing to celebrate gay pride , to question traditional gender and sexual orientation roles in
lesbian, bisexual, gay, and heterosexual communities, to express nontraditional gender identities,
to challenge authority, and/or to perform and entertain. Drag queens and drag kings are often
subject to sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, and transgenderism inside and from outside the
lesbian and gay communities, as well as the dominant heterosexual communities.
Transsexuals are persons whose external gender identity may not match their
internal gender identity. In other words, the external genitalia and gender role socialization/
expression do not necessarily correspond with internal gender role identity. Male-to-
female (MtoF) transsexuals have internal female gender identity and seek to alter their
biologically male body characteristics to match an internal female gender identity.
Female-to-male (FtoM) transsexuals have internal male gender identity and seek to
alter their biologically female body characteristics to match an internal male gender
identity. Pre-operative (pre-op) transsexuals await sex reassignment surgery (SRS).
Post-operative (post-op) transsexuals have completed SRS and known as
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transwomen or transmen. Non-operative (non-op) transsexuals elect to not alter
their bodies through physical surgery.
USING A STRENGTHS-BASED MODEL TO CHALLENGE THE PATHOLOGY-BASED
Much of how professional counselors have viewed gender identity and expression in the
past have come from a philosophical paradigm of essentialism. This modernity-influenced
philosophy concludes that sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity/ expression are
constructs developed based on biology that can be demonstrated through traditional scientific
method, i.e., the quantitative research traditions of logical positivism. Social constructionists,
however, challenge essentialism. Post-modern influenced social constructionist counselors
would suggest that there are multiple truths in terms of sexual orientation, gender, and gender
identity/expression. Social constructionists believe that language helps to shape truth and that
there are multiple possibilities and that sexual orientation, gender and gender identity are fluid
constructs on a continuum (Casper & Schultz, 1999).
They reject the idea that either gender or sexual orientation is fixed or based primarily on
biological factors. They believe that both sexual orientation and gender identity are arrived at
due to multiple factors and that there is no one truth or correct way of being sexual or gendered.
They are more interested in the qualitative or subjective truths of how persons become gendered
or develop their sexual orientations through sociopolitical and cultural means as opposed to
biology. Casper & Shultz (1999). provide an excellent discussion of how traditional and
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nontraditional gender theory can be used in schools to provide an affirmative atmosphere for all
persons, including lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered children, youth, staff, and families.
Essentialism has been the basis of what is now called Gender Identity “Disorder” in the
DSM-IV. It traditionally has been the focus of mental health professionals who have often
resorted to abusive behaviors to force persons into rigid traditional gender roles that replicate
traditional “norms” often against the well-being of clients (Scholinski & Adams, 1997; Pleak,
1999). It unscientifically blames the victim and pathologizes persons with nondominant gender
identities as being the problem as opposed to a culture that restricts gender to two rigid categories
and expects all persons to be “either/or.” An American Psychiatric Association task force is
currently considering dropping Gender Identity Disorder altogether from the next revision of the
So, the dominant medical and mental health communities traditionally saw lesbian,
bisexual, and gay sexual orientations, transgendered, intersex, cross-dressing, drag king, drag
queen, androgyne, gender-blending and masculine girls/women and feminine boys/men as
problematic in the least and pathologized or disordered at worst (APA, 1994; Bullough &
Bullough, 1993; Pleak, 1999; Rekers, 1980, 1995; Seligman, 1998). Current research,
scholarship, and gender community activists and allies question such “reasoning.” From a social
constructionist stance, it is seen as culturally biased and transgenderist in upholding rigid,
dichotomous definitions of one particular world view, reinforcing traditional European-American
and Judeo-Christian concepts of gender identity/expression. Contrary to this view, many
cultures, including nondominant European-American, Asian, African, and Indigenous ones
(Feinberg, 1996; Israel & Tarver, 1997), have seen a nondichotomous view of gender as a sign of
mental health, as challenging dominant culture values, or simply as an enjoyable pleasure.
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A strengths-based model is recommended for school and family counselors as a way to
counsel gender-variant children, youth, and family members in affirmative ways. A strengths-
based model challenges pathologizing of gender-variant and transgendered persons and sees
gender as a cultural construct, not a pathology. Instead of pathologizing, professional counselors
need to affirm the truth and courage of what Feinberg (1996) calls “transgender warriors.” It
takes honesty, clarity, courage, perseverance, dignity, self-determination, creativity, intelligence,
and passion to challenge traditional gender norms in schools and families. Professional
counselors can aid children, youth, and families with histories and herstories of transgenderism
and gender variation to reduce isolation and fear.
COUNSELING/ADVOCACY ISSUES FOR TRANSGENDERED AND GENDER-VARIANT
YOUTH AND ADULTS IN SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES
There are many specific gender identity and transgender counseling issues that can be a
focus school and family counseling. Transitioning is the period whereby a transsexual person
begins the process of crossing from one gender identity to another to create congruence between
internal and external gender identities. It often includes taking hormones and may include sex
reassignment surgery, legally changing one’s gender, and dealing with others’ reactions in one’s
relationships and at work. (Brown & Rounsley, 1996; Walworth, 1998). Sexual orientation
labels may also shift in transition, depending on the person. Passing is a highly developed skill
for many cross-dressers and transsexuals; the goal is to pass for the gender identity one wishes to
be or to display in public. Certain persons have an easier time passing than others based on their
features, height, weight, etc. A significant portion of time in the community may be spent being
Transgendered and 14
critiqued on tips for passing and/or dressing successfully. The risk of violence increases for
gender-variant and transgendered persons who do not pass successfully.
Hormones, in the gender community, usually refer to estrogen and testosterone that are
administered to defeminize or demasculinize secondary sex characteristics of one gender identity
in favor of the desired secondary sex characteristics of another gender. Dangers include persons
who use mail-order or off-the-street hormones . Sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is a medical
procedure whereby a penis and testes are surgically removed or altered to create a vagina and
clitoris or whereby a vagina and clitoris are removed or altered to create a penis and testes. It
may also include other plastic surgery of other body parts to more resemble the desired gender
identity. The Harry F. Benjamin guidelines are the traditional two-year process whereby
persons seeking SRS must be in counseling and live for a period of at least six-months in the
desired gender identity full-time (also known as the real-life test) to assess their ability to be
successful and to ensure that the surgery is not undertaken without adequate emotional
preparation (Israel & Tarver, 1997). The guidelines are controversial and challenged by some
transsexuals and allies as inappropriate and unnecessary; no other major surgery for a medical
procedure requires prior intensive mental health intervention (Bornstein, 1994; Wilchins, 1997).
The emotions of being in a gender- dichotomous culture and not fitting in are powerful
and intense for any person at any age. Feelings can include: fear, anxiety, loneliness, alienation,
isolation, anger, rage, sadness, loss, grief, pain, and numbness. As a transgendered or gender-
variant person gains clarity about who they are and how they will live as a gender-variant or
transgendered person, other feelings including euphoria, happiness, excitement, clarity, and joy
are common. Yet, the ever-present possibilities of oppression and violence are never far from
the surface of most transgendered and gender-variant person’s lives. Many transgendered
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persons are targets of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or harassment, and often have few
places to turn for help, which increases the likelihood of repeat victimizations (Israel & Tarver,
1997). Money for gender-related surgery, hormones, clothes, and accessories is often scarce
and many gender-variant or transgendered persons may engage in prostitution to survive (Israel
& Tarver, 1997). For gender-variant youth and young adults, the likelihood of being thrown out
of the house when discovered is a reality, and the dangers of homelessness, drug and alcohol
abuse, running away, and associated health concerns are serious. Many transgendered and
gender-variant persons are seen as “freaks” by law enforcement agencies, and if assaulted, may
be further victimized in police custody. Many states have laws criminalizing gender
Few laws recognize gender identity and gender expression concerns and transgendered
and gender-variant persons are often the target of hate crimes with little legal recourse. As a
direct result of transgenderism and heterosexism in most schools and families, transgendered and
gender-variant children, youth, and adults often lack accurate information , support networks,
and role models about emotional health and well-being as transgendered or gender-variant.
Finally, certain religious, political, and cultural attitudes that shun or shame persons who are
nontraditional in their gender role or presentation can be harmful to optimal emotional health.
It is only in the past few years that stories about affirmative gender identity and gender
expression in families have begun to emerge in the literature of both activists and clinicians
(Brown & Rounsley, 1996; Boenke, 1999; Just Evelyn, 1999; Xavier, Sharp, & Boenke, 1998).
While never an easy road for any family member, narratives that show successful gender identity
and transgender family members indicate that families can and do embrace all of their members
even if they are nontraditional in how gender is conceptualized. Parents of transgendered
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children are now sharing their stories as a developmental journey of hope, courage, and
compassion and refusing to “hide” in the closet any longer, along with their children (Boenke,
1999; Evelyn, 1999; Xavier, Sharp, & Boenke, 1998).
Similarly, the stories of success for gender-variant and transgendered youth are beginning
to appear in the literature (Boenke, 1999). Professional school counselors can work with
teachers, administrators, students, families, and communities to ensure that gender identity and
expression are handled with dignity, respect, and intellectual clarity in the curriculum and
through inclusive policies, procedures, and forms at all levels of the school community. Casper
& Schultz (1999) provide many ideas for how same-gendered parents can interface with
“straight” schools, and many of their suggestions ring true for transgendered and gender-variant
parents as well. Perhaps most importantly, school counselors can provide consultations to end
violence based on gender, gender identity/expression, and sexual orientation in schools.
CULTURAL AND SYSTEMIC/INSTITUTIONAL INTERVENTIONS
An excellent anti-violence teaching and school counseling curricula that can easily be
applied to transgender and gender-variant issues is the work of Creighton and Kivel (1992),
who have taught children, youth, and adults of all cultural identities how to end violence by
challenging multiple oppressions in schools and families. Challenging racism, sexism,
heterosexism, classism, and other oppressions, Creighton and Kivel (1992) give specific tools
easily applied to affirming nontraditional gender identity/expression .
Professional counselors can encourage political advocacy for transgendered and gender-
variant rights and freedom from violence by co-sponsoring hate crimes legislation and joining
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state and national advocacy organizations such as GenderPAC. Indeed, counseling
transgendered and gender-variant persons is a sociopolitical act. The following are additional
transgender and gender-variant advocacy ideas for professional counselors:
Examine your ideas about gender, gender identity/expression, and sexual orientation.
Seek consultation, supervision, or referral to transgender activists and community
members, gender specialists, and/or persons with affirmative expertise.
Use correct gender pronouns. Always use the gender that the person is currently
presenting/expressing. If you are unsure, ask. (Israel & Tarver, 1997)
Promote comprehensive sexuality education to counteract inaccurate information
from peers and the media with accurate, developmentally appropriate information in an
affirming school or family environment (SIECUS, 1996; Chen-Hayes, 1997).
Coach clients in the nuances of transgender or cross-dressing identity disclosure.
Israel & Tarver (1997) suggested that adults disclosing their transgendered identity to
children/youth reflect on several issues: What will be the consequences on others?
What will their concerns/reactions will be? Disclosers can prepare a written statement
or notes about items to discuss; set a particular time to have a discussion; reaffirm the
relationship/friendship during the disclosure; be as factual as possible in disclosure;
affirm and respect the person being disclosed to and that person’s right to agree,
disagree, or be unsure; and reflect after the process about how it feels. With children,
disclosure is based “on a child’s need to know” (Israel & Tarver, 1997, p. 53).
Regular adult cross-dressing or pre-surgery transition needs should be addressed as
the adults’ issues only. Coaching on perceived or actual peer teasing or harassment is
also an essential part of disclosure. Above all, children need to know they are valued
Transgendered and 18
and loved (Israel & Tarver, 1997) . Validate gender-variant and transgendered
concerns; offer Internet or print media resources; discuss pros and cons of coming out;
ask who in the family is/not supportive; assess the likelihood of rejections and coping
skills; and develop strategies for potential harassment/violence, finance, and gender
Assist in gender presentation tips and success in passing.
Report acts of violence to authorities including sexual/gender expression/sexual
orientation harassment and teach self-defense skills (Harris & Associates, 1993).
Focus on multiple oppressions. Classism and the high costs of transitioning and
difficulty finding insurance reimbursement are paramount for many transgendered
persons. Racism includes the invisibility of transgender and gender-variant people of
color and few transgender-specific resources for persons of color (Namaste, 1996;
Israel & Tarver, 1997; Wilchins, 1997). Ageism occurs as gender-variant and
transgendered children and youth are often targets for abuse from some parents and
clinicians who coerce them to change. Other oppressions include ableism and
beautyism, particularly as they affect persons who have been given a DSM-IV
diagnosis as “disordered,” and what the appropriately gendered standards of
appearance are according to the dominant culture’s norms.
Make a list of heterosexual and traditionally gendered identity privileges and how to
challenge them (Barret, 1998; Chen-Hayes, 2000).
Develop gender-identity, gender-expression, and sexual orientation inclusive school
policies such as a policy on a parent or child/adolescent who comes out as gender-
variant and proceeds to gender transition/sex reassignment.
Transgendered and 19
Create a policy for when a child or youth demonstrates gender-variant behavior and
discuss peer reinforcement, harassment, and adult/systemic responses.
Develop a safe school/safe families approach that empowers all community member
(Morrison, Furlong, & Morrison , 1997). Create a mission statement and regular staff
development that affirm gender identity/expression and sexual orientation
similarities and differences to ensure everyone is valued.
Take a transgendered or gender-variant person to lunch. Become an advocate/ally
(Lewis & Arnold, 1998; Chen-Hayes, 2000; Reynolds & Koski, 1995). Interrupt
jokes, challenge myths and stereotypes, provide accurate information, and take a zero-
tolerance stand toward emotional, physical, or sexual violence and harassment based
on gender identity or sexual orientation.
Invite transgendered and gender-variant persons to speak to community, religious, and
Ensure transgendered and gender-variant literature is in school and community
libraries and teaching curricula related to family life (SIECUS, 1996).
Question school policies that limit children, youth, and adults in gender identity and
sexual orientation. (Casper & Schultz, 1999). Promote gender expression-sensitive
workplaces. (Brown & Rounsley, 1996; Walworth, 1998).
Explore your own family of origin for persons with nontraditional gender
identity/expression. How did/does your family deal with gender variance?
A third or more of all teen suicide attempts and actual suicides are made by lesbian,
bisexual, gay, transgendered, and questioning youth (Remafedi, 1994). Suicide
Transgendered and 20
prevention workshops must focus on gender identity and sexual orientation harassment
and the precipitating factors for suicidal ideation.
Never assume one’s current or future gender identity or sexual orientation.
Read and develop expertise in transgender and gender-variant histories and herstories
(Bullough & Bullough, 1993; Feinberg, 1996; Rottnek, 1999).
Work with local police departments, judges, and clergy to educate them on hate
crimes, violence, harassment, suicidal ideation, run-away or “throw-away” youth, and
the dangers of hate-filled sermons or other religious speech.
Challenge horizontal hostility (Pharr, 1996). Horizontal hostility is internalized
oppression that occurs when nondominant group members use prejudice against each
other (i.e., cross-dressers fight transsexuals) rather than challenging the dominant
group (i.e., traditionally gendered persons’ privilege and power to limit access to
resources). Horizontal hostility maintains the status quo.
Rofes (1995) suggests that schools stop baiting boys who are seen as “sissies” by
their peers. Teachers and administrators must interrupt bullies/bullying.
CONCLUSION AND RESOURCES
School and family counselors, to be culturally competent in sexual orientation, gender
identity, and gender expression counseling, can view gender-variant or transgendered children,
youth, and adult family members from a strengths-based perspective. The strengths of the
unique cultural contexts of transgendered and gender-variant persons challenge pathologizing
models of mental health that see nontraditional gender identity and expression as an illness. The
Transgendered and 21
major issues confronting our schools and families is to provide a safe, nurturing, nonviolent
atmosphere in which to grow and develop for all persons of varied sexual orientations and gender
identities/expression. Silence and ignorance related to sexual orientation and gender
identity/expression can no longer be tolerated in schools and families. Professional school and
family counselors can provide developmentally sensitive interventions that help children, youth,
and families to understand and affirm the range of sexual orientations and gender
identities/expression as part of the human spectrum. School and family counselors with
sexual orientation and gender identity/expression competence help create and maintain safe,
supportive, and affirming schools and families. The following groups provide transgendered
and gender-variant advocacy and support:
American Educational Gender Information Service (AEGIS)
Box 33724, Decatur, GA 30333, (770) 939-0244, AEGIS@gender.org
FTM (Female-to-Male) International
1360 Mission St. # 200 San Francisco, CA 94103, (415) 553-5987
International Foundation for Gender Education
P.O. Box 229, Wayland, MA 02254-0229, (617) 899-2212, IFGE@world.std.com
Society for the Second Self (Tri-Ess) (Cross-dressers)
8880 Belaire B2 #104 Houston, TX 77036
Gender Political Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC)
733 15th St. NW, 7th Flr., Washington, D.C., 20005 (202) 347-3024
Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA)
1300 South 2nd St. #180 Minneapolis, MN 55454 (612) 625-1500
International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy (ICTLEP)
P.O. Box 1010 Cooperstown, NY 13326 (607) 547-4118 ICTLEP@aol.com
Intersex Society of North America (ISNA)
P.O. Box 31791, San Francisco, CA 94131, firstname.lastname@example.org
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Transgendered and 22
Includes T-SON, Transgender Special Outreach Network
1101 14th St. NW, Washington, D. C., 20005 (202) 638-4200, email@example.com
American Counseling Association. (1995). Code of ethics and standards of practice.
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disorders (DSM-IV). Washington, D. C.: American Psychiatric Association.
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Stadler. (1996). Operationalization of the multicultural counseling competencies. Journal of
Multicultural Counseling and Development, 24(1), 42-78.
Barret, R. (1998). Gay and lesbian activism: A frontier in social advocacy. In Lee, C.,
& Walz, G. R. (Eds.). Social action: A mandate for counselors. Alexandria, VA: American
Counseling Association and ERIC/CASS.
Blanchard, R., & Steiner, B. W., (Eds.). (1990). Clinical management of gender
identity disorders in children and adults. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.
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Transgendered and 23
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PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
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communication and trust. New York: Teachers College Press.
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family relationships: Overcoming the stereotypes 5(3), 236-240. The Family Journal:
Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families.
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counselors, educators, and parents. Alameda, CA: Hunter House.
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harassment in America’s schools. Washington, D.C.: American Association of University
Women Educational Foundation.
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practical information & personal accounts. Philadelphia, PA: Temple.
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women. New York: Harrington Park Press.
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Lee & G. R. Walz, (Eds.), Social action: A mandate for counselors. Alexandria, VA:
American Counseling Association and ERIC/CASS.
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Morrison, G. M., Furlong, M. J., & Morrison, R. L. (1997). The safe school: Moving
beyond crime prevention to school empowerment. In A. P. Goldstein & J. C. Conoley (Eds.).,
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and transgender anthology.
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Pleak, R. (1999). Ethical issues in diagnosing and treating gender-dysphoric children. In
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Stuart F. Chen-Hayes, Ph.D. is Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Counselor
Education/School Counseling in the Specialized Services in Education Department at Lehman
Transgendered and 28
College of the City University of New York. Correspondence regarding this article should be
sent to the author at Carman Hall B-20, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY 10468 or