The use of metaphors in understanding atypical gender identity development and its psychosocial impact

Di Ceglie, Domenico (2018) The use of metaphors in understanding atypical gender identity development and its psychosocial impact. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 44 (1). pp. 5-28. ISSN 0075-417X

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Over the years I have found a number of metaphors which have helped me to deal with particular dynamics in therapeutic work or with group and institutional conflicts involving the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock Centre. This nationwide service, which is for young people with atypical gender identity development and their families, was established in 1989. In this paper I describe some of these metaphors in relation to the particular problems or conflicts which had stimulated their appearance in my mind. The emergence of these metaphors links the vicissitudes of atypical gender identity development to issues regarding symbolisation or symbolic thinking. Metaphors such as ‘working at the edge’ or ‘navigating between Scylla and Charybdis’ allow the professional to hold on to multiple perspectives and to maintain a certain degree of ambiguity in situations in which the interpersonal dynamics can be experienced as rigid and deterministic. The emergence of metaphors can then be perceived by the professional with a sense of relief and freedom of thinking. In this paper, metaphors are linked to: the model of care developed; the therapeutic stance; and the aims, risks and pressures experienced by the professional in this area of work. The association between gender dysphoria in some young people and autistic spectrum features is explored. The paper emphasises the importance of responding flexibly to individual differences and of recognising complexity.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: 15 Mar 2018. Special issue: Working with gender identity in the consulting room
Uncontrolled Keywords: Atypical Gender Identity Development, Gender Dysphoria, Gender Variance, Autistic Spectrum Condition, ASC
Subjects: Communication (incl. disorders of) > Autism
Sex Psychology > Gender Identity
Department/People: Special Units

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