A Silver Lining? Opportunities During a Quarantine

Ever since the quarantine due to COVID-19, I’ve been meeting with my clients via teletherapy, or therapy over video. Of course, living during a global pandemic has an element of stress for everyone. This is new, unchartered, and scary territory. Some of my teen clients are struggling with the lack of social interaction in person. Developmentally, friendships and social relationships are often the most important things in an adolescent’s life. However, for the majority of my clients with gender dysphoria, social distancing is a welcome thing. For those with gender dysphoria, interaction with society can be one of the most distressing things in their day to day life. They may feel “misread” or misunderstood, and this often results in being misgendered. For those who get to stay home with the people who understand them and gender them correctly, this quarantine brings an element of relief. Not to mention, not having to contend with bathroom anxiety!

Additionally, this poses a unique opportunity to those who are contemplating or undergoing social or hormonal transition. Please note, due to the setting of where I see clients (private practice) and my specialty (gender), many of my clients have affirming families. I know this is not the case for many, many gender-expansive and transgender youth across the country, and the globe.

For gender-expansive or transgender children, attending school and interacting with peers can be a tricky undertaking. They are likely choosing their gender expression carefully to either assert who they really are or to avoid getting teased. This can be exhausting! During this time of school closures and quarantine, my gender-expansive clients have the unique opportunity to be “backstage“ with their families rather than on stage, at school.

This rare situation allows some children to express themselves authentically, all day every day for a little while, rather than only “after school“ or for distinct hours while at home. Upon hearing about the school closure, one of my kiddos promptly had their father buy them an “Ariana Grande” wig and has been gleefully wearing it at home every day, something they would not dare to do at school. This child also requested getting fake nails during this time of quarantine. I could see their mother’s smile and the understanding on her face at how quickly her child was realizing possibilities of expression now that they would be only seeing family for the next several weeks.

Additionally, this is an unforeseen, almost perfect platform for the child who is considering or starting social transition. Sometimes, families will help the child “try on” new names and pronouns at home to see how it feels to the child. This can be tricky when parents need to use one set of pronouns at home and one set of pronouns at school/in society. While everyone is staying at home, this is the perfect time to practice! This will allow kids to feel the safety of being known and hearing the words they so desperately need to hear in affirmation, without balancing two separate settings and contributing to anxiety.

For some clients eagerly awaiting their first appointment for hormone therapy, this pandemic could unfortunately postpone the initiation of hormones. For many, getting an appointment for hormones has been a long time coming already, so any type of delay can cause extreme distress. I know some providers who are doing this via telemedicine, and if not it’s essential to find a way to get an in-person appointments as soon as possible.

Sometimes, starting hormones (and waiting to see their effects) can feel very slow. I’ve heard clients say they wish they could sleep for a few months and wake up with some changes having taken effect. For my clients who started hormones just prior to the quarantine, this is an incredibly unique opportunity for them to stay at home and wait for changes before emerging back out into society. As one of my clients (who started Testosterone just before sheltering in place) put it, “It’s like I can stay in this little cocoon while I undergo a bit of transformation!” I’m enjoying witnessing these little positive opportunities given to my clients in this largely difficult and unexpected circumstance.

Have YOU noticed any opportunities afforded by the quarantine? Please comment below.

This blog outlines some unique opportunities presented to transgender individuals during a quarantine, but is not meant to minimize the struggles quarantine can present for the general population or transgender folk. My friend and colleague, Dr. Huong Diep, wrote an article about the unique challenges that can be presented during this time.  Click here to read the article.

Published in: on April 21, 2020 at 5:22 pm  Comments (3)