Many parents and practitioners struggle with the increasing number of young people presenting with gender dysphoria. Adults are confronted with the reality of childhood sexuality and challenges to traditional binary notions of gender. The vexed question of gender-affirming medical intervention that requires consent by a legal guardian adds an additional dimension.
The young person may be distressed by their circumstances, and the parents understandably cautious and fearful of treatment they view as extreme. This can result in a harmful delay to necessary treatment.
Healy and Allen (2019) recommend family therapy as the treatment of choice in this situation, recognising that gender dysphoria is not a product of family dysfunction but rather an issue between the family, who live in a cisnormative world, and the needs of their child. Anxiety, due to lack of communication and parental understanding of their child’s situation, becomes bound into the family system and the child’s distress at the lack of support for the symptom. This becomes the focus of treatment; recognising that the system is inclusive of the child, their family, and the wider society. The task of therapy is to facilitate a reorganization of family relationships to support the young person’s individuation and achievement of autonomy. In doing so more authentic communication is possible, and anxiety decreases for all family members.
Healy, R. W., & Allen, L. R. 2019. Bowen family systems therapy with transgender minors: A case study. Clinical Social Work Journal, pp. 1-10. doi: 10.1007/s10615-019-00704-4