Affirmative Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Youth: Expanding the Model

Affirmative care - in which the individual’s self-reported gender is respected, and in which they are given the safety and opportunity to explore their identity and expression - has been clearly demonstrated to show dramatic reductions in depression, anxiety, substance use, self-harm, as well as suicidal ideation and gestures. Research shows clear improvements in school/work performance, mental health, and positive outcomes.

Published in: Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. 2016. Authors: Laura Edwards-Leeper, Scott Leibowitz, Varunee Faii Sangganjanavanich.

“Affirmative care with transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) children and adolescents… rests on a premise that appreciates diverse gender expressions and identities within society, and encourages the highest potential for individuals to follow their own paths to positive emotional well-being… Given the current deficits in scientific understanding of gender identity development in youth, the affirmative provider often faces decisions that are challenging, complex, and unclear. This paper describes the theoretical approaches to TGNC youth across development, provides a brief overview of the current research, and offers providers a way to conceptualize and provide care that can be both supportive and scientifically driven when done in a thoughtful, balanced way.”

“Providing affirmative care is important in offering these youngsters a sense of hope, an element that is all too often missing in their lives. Balancing the provision of such care with the complexities and challenges that exist need not be impossible, yet requires providers to be aware of their assumptions and biases, recognize the developmental considerations involved, advocate creatively in the face of many logistical barriers, work within the multiple perspectives of an interdisciplinary environment, and stay current with the evolving science of gender.”