How to Be a Supportive Ally for People Going through Gender Transition

What if conversations about gender transition centered around pleasure and possibility instead of suffering?

It’s a question that Rae McDaniel, MEd, LCPC, has spent more than a decade exploring. As a licensed therapist, coach, educator, and nonbinary person themself, McDaniel has guided many transgender and nonbinary people through journeys of gender exploration and transition. Their first book, Gender Magic: Live Shamelessly, Reclaim Your Joy, & Step Into Your Most Authentic Self, out now, distills a career’s worth of wisdom — including a thorough breakdown of the Gender Freedom Model, a pleasure-centric framework for gender exploration that McDaniel developed to help ease and demystify the process. They guide readers with easy-to-understand definitions, journal prompts, and practical advice.

McDaniel is the first to admit that we’re living through a challenging time for transgender equality — especially regarding restrictions on gender-affirming healthcare, which many trans and nonbinary people pursue as they transition.

“The hard things are real,” McDaniel tells SheKnows. “The Gender Freedom Model isn’t about ‘love and light’-ing our way through gender transition, or saying that it is always easy. It’s saying that there are tools and mindsets that can make it easier on you.”

Below, find our full conversation with McDaniel, who spoke about their innovative therapeutic framework and how parents of trans kids living in states with hostile laws can best support their children.

SheKnows: We rarely hear about gender transition through the lens of pleasure. Can you walk us through how and why you developed the Gender Freedom Model?

Rae McDaniel: Thank you. The reason I created it is exactly what you said: You don’t see it talked about that much when it comes to talking about exploring gender or transitioning your gender. I was really frustrated that a lot of the literature I was seeing focused exclusively on suffering and anxiety and all the really hard things that come along with being trans in our world today. Those things are important, and they are absolutely real, but I was missing the other side of the coin. Through exploring their gender, a lot of my clients felt better than they ever had in their life, experienced closer and more connected relationships, and made huge, amazing changes in their lives. 

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