Below is a story shared by Dr. Novitsky, one of Potomac Psychiatry’s skilled practitioners:
“One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as a therapist is that I can learn from my clients’ experiences. While I identify as heterosexual, cisgender male, over the years I have developed an outsider’s understanding for the unique challenges that the LGBTQ community faces. I have always prided myself as being open-minded and compassionate towards others, but by sharing in the experiences of both close friends and my clients over the years, I have learned to not only accept but to celebrate this incredible community.
The first time I was privileged to have worked with a transgender youth (for purposes of confidentiality details and names have been changed) was during my fellowship training. Taylor had been born anatomically female, but knew early on that he was truly a boy trapped in a girl’s body. He had been teased for liking gender roles traditionally attributed to males. Nevertheless, his parents made an effort to expose him to more activities that the community had available for young ladies—perhaps, they thought, they had not yet found the right fit yet. Taylor overheard teachers, extended family, and her pastor assuring his parents that it was “just a phase she was going through” and that soon enough “she’d come around”. Suddenly, it was not just his body that had him feeling trapped. How could he let the people who loved him down? By 6th grade, he started to question if there was something intrinsically flawed in him. His grades started to drop, he started to isolate from friends, and he started to think it would have been better if he had never been born. He was extremely artistic and found comfort in putting his feelings to paper through poems and drawings in a notebook—but it was too painful to expose the truth that he was a transgender male. Needless to say, it was that very notebook that raised concerns for depression and resulted in an evaluation by yours truly.
In our first session together, Taylor’s parents shared the details of his depression, but I was looking beyond diagnoses. I could see that the pain in Taylor’s eyes had been there for much longer than his parents understood. He wasn’t ready to share in that first session, but he let his guard down as I asked about sexuality and was seemingly surprised when I had offered the possibility that he was attracted to neither sex as an option. I explained that I’ve worked with asexual youth who feel oppressed by society’s expectations of them. As sessions progressed, he started to open up about his struggle to conform to society’s expectations of him. I reiterated my acceptance of him for who he is, until one fateful day, I was privileged to be the first person with whom Taylor confided in. And the rest, as they say, is HIStory.