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BCBC - Podcast - S3EP013 - Caroline Gibbs - Gender Transition Coach
Welcome to our last Podcast for our month of October on Gender Identities, the Gender Spectrum, and Gender Transitions. We have had an amazing month, where we have spoken with experts on gender and transitions, and to several people about their personal journeys. Tomorrow we have our final Behind the Scenes blog for the year - so do not forget to check that out. But today is the final discussion on Gender. In this Episode: Today, Monkey and the Professor sit around the table and talk to Dr. Caroline Gibbs about steps involved in gender transitions - to facilitate healthy and balanced and successful transitions or, as Dr. Raj prefers - Gender Affirmation processes. Caroline Gibbs is the founder and director of The Transgender Institute, and is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor, nationally and internationally recognized as an educator, advocate, and provider for this population. She is also a partner in the International Center for Transgender Care. She understands the current DSM-5 diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria and differentiates among sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. A Few Definitions: We discussed a few definitions - and Caroline wanted to point out that terminology has changed - both in the phrases allowed as well as in the change of definitions. With that in mind, she believes that gender is a hardwired construct that cannot be altered - it is how people feel they are as far as male, female, or in between. That feeling is what it is - although someone’s external appearance may or may not reflect those feelings. Transgender is also a very broad term. It is an umbrella term that includes transsexual people (people whose gender identity does not match their physical selves), cross-dressers (predominantly male, heterosexual people, who enjoy dressing as women), and drag queens (crossdressers who dress as more famous women for sexual pleasure or for fun). Caroline feels that cross-dressers often have a varied transsexual identity. After time in therapy and life experience - they find themselves with a shift in their identity. There is no standard here nor has there been research. They may or may not ever move to the transgender part of the umbrella and may not transition. Gender dysphoria has many misconceptions in the world. In general, it means, very simply, discomfort. In some cases, it may be extreme discomfort. Adding the term gender in front of that means someone who has discomfort around their gender. This involves a mismatch in gender identity from that assigned at birth, and where they may present physically - and what they feel is internally their true gender. As the Professor suggested - their insides do not match their outsides. It can be a very serious issue. Transitioning is where someone makes a decision to journey to make the internal and external self-match. There are many different things that may happen to make that match - and many levels of matching. The goal is the removal of gender dysphoria, providing freedom and ease for the person. This is where Caroline’s organization works - in helping people make the decision as to what the best choices for each individual would be. It is a goal of finding relief. The Transgender Institute Foundation: Caroline loves the story of how she arranged for these things to happen in her life. Around 25 years ago she met a group of transsexual individuals who were teaching clinicians on how to treat them and help them through their transitions. There were no standards or practices available at the time to facilitate their journey. This means that the people who were suffering the dysphoria were forced to create their own paths. This was done through a series of lectures and workshops. Over time, Caroline started dating one of the people in this community - this means that she has a very very personal connection to this community. She decided at that time that it was her passion and she wanted to help this community. She went back to school and got her degrees in advanced psychology and started the Transgender Institute. At that time there were no other resources - that is changing. They have had many successes over the years. This work has become the reason to go forward with her work and life. Her process is called Transgender Growth Therapy. People go to her group, and through her practitioners, they grow in their psychological, emotional lives - into being whole. Many of those who seek her services start off fragmented - the base goal is to help them become whole. The journey for each is personal and different. The heart of their approach is Whole and therefore holistic. It is more than simply talking about their needs - they work on all aspects of their lives to help them find that wholeness. Everyone who approaches Caroline’s group are self-selected - they have a goal to become what they want to be and who they want to be. One of the services they include is called the Feminine Immersion Program. People come from all over and stay for a week or longer, and immerse themselves in femininity, much as you would in a foreign language. Together they work, according to individual wishes, on every aspect of feminine identity. It could be working on vocalization, movement, and more. The goal is to help them blend into society - this used to be called passing. Vocal Feminization Fashion Styling Hair and Wigs Wardrobing Makeup Facial and body hair removal Comportment - behavior differences and body language And many more things There are few statistics in the world of gender affirmation - though that is something that many people are focusing on more now than ever. Within Caroline’s practice, they see children from the age of 3 years old up to her oldest client of 74 years old. There is no age boundary for the work she does. She believes that over time, this is a human condition, stable over time and geography. International Center for Transgender Care: Caroline is also the founder for the ICTC. It was founded and is the brainchild of herself and Dr. Kee Rafell? The idea is around the fact that the majority of the people that Caroline sees at her Institute often move to the path of surgery. They refer people back and forth between the organization’s complementary actions. The long-term goal is to have a physical location for this in Dallas TX and it is in process. Caroline suggests that the approach they use is holistic. Holistic means treating the whole person - not just a part. It is more than talk therapy, vocal feminization, surgery, etc. They do EVERYTHING possible that they can to address the needs of the transgender community. While the ICTC is not the only transgender surgeons around the world, Caroline believes they are some of the best surgeons in the world. She loves the partnership the Trans Institute and the ICTC have - allowing the two organizations to work together holistically to ensure that the patients are WHOLE at the end of the process - able to blend. It is about helping those on the journey to be most successful in all aspects. Challenges Working With People: In general, Caroline’s biggest challenge working within the broader community, there are co-morbid conditions that co-exist with gender dysphoria - including depression, bi-polar, etc. Unfortunately, these are not always understood so the diagnoses are often a problem with a failure to treat the whole person. Working with transmen - it is, generally speaking, a much easier group to work with these people. They tend to have a very strong identity of being male - and they want hormone therapy fairly immediately. Her team can quickly identify these individuals very easily. Of course, there are people who are not as obvious - having a more feminine bearing initially. It is her goal to not keep people in therapy too long and putting up roadblocks. Their goal is to help people get to where they need to as quickly as possible. Working with transwomen, it is much more difficult because, for some unknown reason, masculine socialization is very ingrained. This means it can sometimes be difficult to help MtF individuals to acquire feminine characteristics. Additionally, estrogen does nothing for modifying the voice. It means there is a lot of work and challenge around doing vocal feminization. Caroline actually started off as an opera singer many years ago - she uses her background in that to help teach people today, bodywork, movement, vocal techniques and more to help the transwomen blend. This is probably the hardest part of the entire transition process for transwomen - it is work that the women have to work at, actively, every day - to change their voices and bearing. There are a few surgeries that can aid in feminization of the voice-adjusting the pitch. Both techniques are not very effective and one of those techniques is extremely dangerous and can result in permanent damage to the voice. Resources and Advice on Transition: Caroline refers people out for physical modifications or appearance changes early on - hair removal, haircuts or trims. Helping people either grow their hair out or shorten it - to help them move through society in the earlier phases and steps of transition. They get to them learn styling skills and techniques that they can grow into as things shift and change. Transus City - Website www.transuscity.com. This is a series of blogs that touches every subject around transgender individuals. Caroline feels that this is one of the best resources out there for both the people going through a transition but also their families. You cannot treat only the person - as part of the holistic approach is treating the entire family on the process. There are also lists of books that she recommends, including books like Transgender 101. For someone who is considering transition - Caroline, of course, suggests that they call or reach out to her organization. There are other gender therapists of course - but Caroline feels they are the best because of the holistic approach. She also recommends not doing a lot of web research - there is a lot of false and crazy information out there. Look for books recommended by some of the therapists and her group instead. Caroline’s team present workshops on a continual basis - at hospitals to educate the professionals. She has alliances with several hospitals and corporations and companies to help people be able to be better allies. She also works and provides workshops for schools. Many of the presentations they do are not open to the public - they are specific and targeted to clients and organization. Some of these are focused around people transitioning successfully on the job or while at school. Truman Medical Center is their newest ally. It is critical that anyone who comes in touch with transgender people know their stuff. When training people, the fundamental goal they have is reducing Bias. Bias against the transgender people. It is the biggest enemy that there is. This is why they ensure that there are transmen and transwomen involved as part of their training - it is very hard to hate people up close. Demystifying and putting a face helps remove the bias. We welcome Caroline to our barnyard. She identifies as a leopard. She believes that leopard is very sexy - she loves the fashion industry with all of the spots. Additionally, she NEVER changes her spots - she has to be strong to do the work she is doing and to stand as an advocate and that is why she is a leopard. About Our Guest: Caroline Gibbs, is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and National Certified Counselor, nationally and internationally recognized as an educator, advocate, and provider for this population. She understands the current DSM-5 diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria and differentiates among sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Working with this clientele requires specialization, comprising in part, an awareness of the impact of stress on gender dysphoria and the non-pathologizing of stress-related symptoms, and additionally, a particular knowledge of grief and bereavement as they manifest during the transgender client’s and his or her family’s journey. Caroline brings a deep respect for, and sensitivity to, the needs of families of origin, partners, children and friends, a familiarity with the diversity of gender expression and the transgender liberation movement, and an in-depth knowledge of mental health issues and psychotherapeutic techniques. She also has the ability to assess for mental illness, addictions, and trauma-related conditions. Caroline uses a holistic approach that includes psychological counseling, hormone treatment, psychiatric referrals, and surgery guidance among numerous other services. She follows the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care (formerly the Harry Benjamin International Gender Association) and complies with the HIPAA Privacy Practices. Caroline is a member of WPATH; the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE); and the American Educational Gender Information Services (AEGIS). Finding Caroline: http://transinstitute.org/ http://thetranscenter.com/ Phone: 816-305-0943
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