Gender Diversity in Psychology: Examples & Impact

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Understanding gender diversity is very important to understanding diversity in psychology overall. This lesson provides an overview of the definition and impact of gender diversity.

Understanding Gender, Understanding Diversity

Sara has been working as a mental health counselor for five years, and human psychology is her passion. Right now, Sara has three transgender clients in her practice. She knows that transgender is an umbrella term for all people who identify with gender differently from the gender they were assigned at birth.

As a counselor, Sara knows that her understanding of diversity overall can make a tremendous difference in her capacity to help her clients. Gender is one of the many ways that humans express their diversity, and Sara thinks it is important to learn more about gender diversity and its relationship to psychology.

Key Concepts Related to Gender

First, Sara familiarizes herself with some of the key terms and concepts that have to do with gender diversity. In general, she learns about gender as a spectrum, or continuum, related to how people define themselves in relation to categories like male or female.

Most people are assigned a gender at birth, and this is related to their anatomy. Many people continue to identify with their assigned gender. However, Sara understands that many people develop a gender identity, or way of thinking about their own gender, that is unique.

Some people might identify, for instance, as genderqueer, not really affiliating themselves with either end of a gender binary. Others might feel that although they were assigned the gender male, they actually identify as female.

Sara learns that gender identity and also gender presentation, or how people express and share their gender with others, can change and evolve over the course of the lifespan.

Examples of Gender Diversity in Psychology

Historically, Sara knows that the field of psychology has not handled gender diversity particularly well. For a long time, being transgender was thought of as a sign of mental illness. However, most psychologists now understand that gender diversity is one aspect of human diversity that can be connected to developmental wholeness and emotional well-being.

Currently, Sara is treating a client named Eddy. Eddy was born with a vagina, and throughout his childhood, people called him a girl. He came to see Sara because of depression and mild anxiety, and as they explored these issues, Eddy revealed to Sara that he really feels more like a boy than a girl.

Sara knew she had to think carefully; after all, transgender people do have higher rates of depression and suicidality than cisgender people, or those who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Working with Eddy, she helped him explore his emotions, body image and identity. Eddy started taking testosterone prescribed by a doctor and coming out to his family and friends as transgender. He struggles against many social biases still, but he is much more comfortable in his own skin than he used to be.

Eddy is sexually attracted to women, but Sara knows that transgender people can identify with many different sexual orientations.

Impact of Gender Diversity in Psychology

Treating Eddy and others, Sara has learned a lot about the impact of gender diversity on psychology.

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