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Gender Care

 

My interest in gender care began on the first week of my Ph.D. program. I was in class in San Francisco. We were fortunate to have a panel of gender variant folks who bravely shared their experiences with us. I recall listening intently to a Male to Female (MtF) post-op transgender woman. She told us her story, which she described as a life of pain and misery, all related to the feelings she had of being trapped in the wrong body.

I remember feeling so much sadness for her as she described a life that had no sense of normalcy. She never fit in with either the boys or the girls. She was an outcast and had few friends. She grew up keeping her secret from everyone, including her parents.

Like most of us, she started each day by getting out of bed and going to the bathroom. The difference for her was that she hated her penis. The body dysmorphia was so overwhelming that she contemplated suicide each and every morning. As she shared her experiences, she broke down crying. I felt my own tears running down my face, and it was that moment that I decided to study and work toward becoming a gender specialist.

My clinical lineage in gender care is something I cherish. I was fortunate to be supervised and mentored by a leading clinician I carefully chose… a man by the name of Stephen Braveman, located in Northern California. Steve is one of the leading clinicians in the country when it comes to gender care.  Stephen studied gender care under Dr. Mildred Brown, who authored the seminal book True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism — For Family, Friends, Co-Workers and Helping Professionals.  First published in 1996, True Selves remains a wonderful resource. Between Milly and Steve, it would be hard to find two people who, combined, have written more Harry Benjamin letters. Similar to how Steve is proud to have studied under Milly, I am grateful to have studied under Steve. A great lesson I learned from Steve was to be a facilitator, not a gate keeper. That is a value I hold deeply.

I started volunteering at the Gender Identity Center of Colorado (GIC) nearly a decade ago, and have spoken to clinicians at the Gold Rush event on several occasions. The GIC is a wonderful resource here in Denver, and we are incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Karen Scarpella as our Executive Director. Dr. Scarpella has done an amazing job of leading the GIC to become what it is today, which is a place that literally saves and changes lives.

Colorado is often referred to as the “sex change capital of America,” which is another reason gender work is so important to me. We carry the legacy of the late Dr. Stanley Biber. I can’t even imagine the courage that must have been required of Dr. Biber to perform his first sex change surgery back in 1969.

Before Dr. Biber passed away in 2006, he mentored Dr. Marci Bowers, who has subsequently been dubbed by the Denver Post as the “Rock Star of sex change surgery.”  Dr. Bowers was already an accomplished urologist in Seattle who commuted to Trinidad, CO to study under Dr. Biber and practice along side him for many years.

I will never forget the first time I drove to Trinidad to meet with Dr. Bowers. I was a nobody and yet she was so gracious with her time and wisdom as I was getting started. Dr. Bowers and her team have touched the lives of more gender variant patients and their families than I can possibly imagine. The surgeries are now done in California, but the scheduling and administrative function continue to be done in Trinidad by Dr. Bowers wonderful long time assistant, Robin Lassiter.

My rates are $200 per 50-minute session, and I recognize that this may not be affordable for some gender variant clients. That said, I am committed to do all I can to ensure that everyone who wants care can get care. Although I do have gender variant clients I see pro bono (no charge), unfortunately, at this time, I cannot accept any new pro bono clients. The good news is that I have several former students who are now licensed clinicians, who charge considerably less than I do. If you need a referral, please send me an e-mail and I will be happy to provide that.

Additionally, I served on the faculty of Denver Family Institute (DFI) for nearly a decade. DFI is the oldest and largest fully accredited Marriage and Family Therapy school in the entire region. I taught sexual and gender diversity at DFI. Many years ago, the executive director at the time, a wonderful man by the name of Jim Thomas, helped me establish an ongoing program whereby DFI always has at least one student clinician trained to provide gender care and related family therapy services. DFI provides low cost, sliding scale fees from $15 per session to $45 per session. DFI is open and affirming to all. For information about DFI you can visit the web site or call the office at (303) 756-3340.

Please feel free to contact me directly with anything you need regarding gender care, and I will do the best I can to help you on your journey.

FREE CRISIS & EMERGENCY SERVICES:

If you are in crisis, you can always call 911. I have found the 911 operators in Denver to be kind and compassionate when it comes to gender issues. Other free emergency resources you might find useful are:

The 24/7 Trevor Hotline for trans youth: 866.488.7386.

Additionally, the National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7: 800.273.8255.

For both adults and youth, you can call the GLBT National Help Center. Please note, however, that they are not open 24/7:  888.843.4564.

 

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