If you are questioning your gender identity, struggling with issues related to gender identity, or needing support with your transition, a psychologist or counsellor with experience working with transgender issues may be helpful. In addition, a trained psychologist or counsellor can help you work through complicating issues related to being transgender, such as family conflicts.
Appendix B lists several psychologists in Lethbridge who have experience working with the trans community and can diagnose gender dysphoria. Some family doctors (also referred to as general practitioners [GPs]) will accept this diagnosis to prescribe hormones. The listed psychologists are all private and bill $150 to $200 per session. Some of these psychologists may be willing to see you at a reduced rate if their fees are a barrier to you accessing their services. As well, many workplace health plans cover a portion of the costs of psychology services. Some plans may require that you have a referral from a family doctor in order to have counselling fees covered.
Some community-based organizations in Lethbridge provide counselling services, including support for gender identity, at no charge or at reduced rates. Contact information for these organizations is provided in Appendix B.
Whether you are just beginning to explore your gender identity, or you are in the process of transitioning, you may find value in participating in a peer support group. You can share your experiences and concerns, seek advice from others in your situation, learn about local resources, and get support from like-minded individuals. Several in-person and web-based peer support groups are available in Calgary and Lethbridge for transgender individuals of various ages, as well as for family and friends of transgender people. Support groups and contact information are listed in Appendix B.
Faith can sometimes conflict with one’s internal feelings of gender identity, and for many, it can be difficult reconciling one’s gender identity with one’s faith. It can be particularly difficult if your religious affiliation has high profile people within it speaking against the trans community, or if your family does not accept your transgender status as being consistent with their religious beliefs. It is important to note that it is possible to maintain your faith and at the same time, be true to who you are. If you are seeking support for your gender identity within a faith community, a list of local and on-line faith organizations that are supportive of those who are trans is provided in Appendix B.
Transition can be a stressful experience. It feels good to explore your identity and find out what feels best for you, but there can be considerable inner turmoil as you continue to sort things out. You may experience anxiety from the coming out process, face conflicts with family and/or friends, and have worries about the future. In addition, there may be emotional changes caused by hormones, making it even more difficult to cope. Sometimes the stress is hard to bear. Everyone who transitions needs support from others and may need professional help. When you are feeling stressed, it is important that you not try to deal with it on your own. Sometimes, sharing your concerns and fears with another person will help relieve the stress. Talk to a friend or family member, if you have one you feel comfortable talking to. You may also want to join a support group. There are people in support groups who have been where you are and can help you through difficult times. You also have the option to seek out a professional counsellor or therapist for support. Check the references in Appendix B for support groups and trans-knowledgeable counsellors or our Mental Health page for resources and tips that may work for you. As noted earlier, some community-based organizations provide counselling at very low rates or at no charge.
Statistics show a disproportionate rate of attempted suicide in the transgender population. If stress is severe and/or feelings of hopelessness start to take over, thoughts of self-harm or suicide may arise. If this happens, you can refer to the above-mentioned suggestions for support but in some situations, when no one is available to talk, you also have the option of calling a distress line. There are local and national hotlines, websites, and services located on our Crisis Supports page, and also listed in Appendix B that you can call for help. Put these numbers on your cell phone so you have them available if needed. In addition, hospitals have emergency room walk-in counselling available, or you can call 911 if you are a danger to yourself or others.
If possible, don’t wait to feel suicidal to ask for help. You can use distress lines at any time, if that is your best option for getting help.