Trans Men’s Positive Emotions: The Interaction of Gender Identity and Emotion Labels
When it comes to more effective counseling for trans individuals it is important to note the labeled emotions that trans people may not be aware of or may not know how to process. A trained counselor with the knowledge of the trans experience through research or personal experience could help trans clients by explaining to them and even providing a worksheet that covers the full range of human emotions. Counselors of trans clients could explain the concept of sitting with uncomfortable emotions, labeling the emotions for what they are, and riding out the wavelength of the emotion until it passes and another emotion is felt.
According to the authors (Budge, Orovecz, Thai) personality traits have been found to be negatively associated with depression among trans women. A way to address this depression is to teach trans specific coping mechanisms such as “utilizing positive behaviors, experiencing higher levels of collective self-esteem, having access to financial and medical resources, engaging in activism, and cultivating spirituality” (Budge et. al. 407) For example, a counselor could help a client to cultivate spirituality by making the client aware of trans inclusive religious and spiritual groups near their neighborhood that interpret religions in a way that is inclusive of trans individuals. The authors found that the “most common positive coping mechanisms utilized by trans individuals are engaging in relationships with family, peers, and community” (Budge 407). Therefore, a counselor could encourage trans individuals to work on their relationships with their families, to seek support from peers, and to find trans inclusive spaces to experience a sense of community with others trans individuals. This could manifest as trans individuals coming out to one another and developing that sense of community, which leads to positive interpersonal reactionary emotions (Budge et al. 421).
The authors argue that becoming more comfortable with the expression of gender involves “being comfortable expressing oneself as a man” and “expressing characteristics that are considered to be feminine while identifying as a man” (Budge et al. 415–416). This might look like trans men feeling comfortable expressing trust, fear, sadness, and anger instead of suppressing those emotions that are considered in heteronormative culture to be feminine emotions. Therapy targeted at guiding trans individuals to express their feminine side can allow for trans clients to experience a full range of human emotions instead of suppressing difficult emotions with substance use or other unhealthy measures.
The authors also assert that the development of pride is one of the last stages in forming identity and works to counteract the excess of shame trans individuals might feel. The authors found that trans men expressed authentic pride, which involves feeling the liberty to be trans men and to take on feminist perspectives (Budge et al 424). It would therefore be effective for therapists providing counseling to trans clients to help trans individuals to become aware of their shame and to become aware of ways in which they can express pride in their identity. This can help to reduce socially internalized shame and to recognize that trans individuals can feel a healthy level of authentic pride in their identity that leads to self-acceptance.
Budge, Stephanie L., Joe J. Orovecz, and Jayden L. Thai. “Trans Men’s Positive Emotions: The Interaction of Gender Identity and Emotion Labels.” The Counseling Psychologist43.3 (2015): 404–26. Sage. Web. 1 May 2017.