What you need to know about Gender Identity Inflating and Narrowing
Even the most caring and supportive providers may not be aware of how dangerous identity inflation and identity narrowing can be for their transgender and nonbinary clients.
Let’s start by defining these two terms. Inflating is when something is increased or enlarged by an excessive amount. Narrowing is defined as making something more limited or restricted in extent or scope.
Gender identity is our internal experience and naming of our gender. It can correspond to or differ from the sex we are assigned at birth. Some people’s gender identity aligns with the sex assigned at birth and others do not.
As a medical, behavioral, or wellness provider, it’s crucial to be aware of both your and your staff’s interactions with clients to prevent identity inflation and narrowing.
Identity inflating is when you point out or shower the individual with compliments about their gender expression or identity. This leads to an overfocus on their gender identity versus them as a person.
For example, a transgender woman walks into your office and you hear a staff member complimenting her on her hair, shoes, makeup, and how she is dressed. This can lead her to feel like there is an over-focus on the expression of her gender or her gender identity.
Identity narrowing is when you ignore an individual's need that is related to their gender identity.
For example, on your intake form, they identified themselves as transgender, and they noted they want to talk about how it is impacting their work and causing distress. But you don't ask about it or bring it up during the visit. You avoid the topic, even though it’s one of the presenting issues they want to discuss.
Being aware of gender inflating and narrowing can help your client feel more supported and cared for. You’re already giving affirming care and adding this knowledge to your toolbox will ensure you’re continuing to grow as a provider.
Dr. Kristie Overstreet is a Psychotherapist, Clinical Sexologist and Certified Sex Therapist. She is also a licensed counselor in California, Florida, and Georgia. With 15+ years of clinical experience working with the LGBTQIA+ community, Dr. Kristie’s passionate about teaching health and wellness providers how to provide care with dignity.