Episode 100

100 — Falling Down the Gender Rabbit Hole: A Tale of Two Therapists

Published on: 3rd February, 2023

Sasha & Stella take a walk down “memory lane,” recalling the evolution of events and circumstances that lead them each towards a deeper concentration on gender identity exploration in their work. With very different stories to tell, they each share their observations of society at large and describe their individual experiences within the culture of their communities and in their workspaces. They explain what intrigued them and led them to explore deeper questions about identity development, dive into the research behind gender affirmative care and gender reassignment surgery, gender stereotypes, and basic human development in general.

They also reflect on how they began working with families and individuals impacted by gender. Their stories both lead up to how their work around gender identity development connected them and ultimately inspired the creation of this show and its rapidly-growing listener base. In its first two years, their collaboration podcast, Gender: A Wider Lens, has curated over 100 hours of in-depth interviews, personal stories, and psychological exploration. Together, Stella O’Malley and Sasha Ayad probe the gender landscape within contemporary culture, considering the implications of prioritizing personal identity over other aspects of the self.

The show has endured some pretty pivotal shifts in the cultural and political climate involving gender dysphoria and its treatments in practice on a global scale. In this episode, Sasha & Stella share their vision for the future of the show as well as the opportunities they anticipate which might broaden the scope of resources available to families and gender dysphoric individuals: resources that go beyond the affirmative approach. Together, the hosts of the popular podcast celebrate the pathways that lead them to each other, the development of the show, and the trajectory ahead for their continued exploration of gender from a wider lens.






Stella’s Film: Trans Kids: It’s Time to Talk:


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Extended Notes

  • Sasha led her school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) when she witnessed confusion about identity in the kids she worked with.
  • Sasha was compelled to make a difference but was overwhelmed by the response she received.
  • As a child, Stella was uncomfortable being a girl and knew she would be better as a boy. She was filled with shame and embarrassment.
  • When Stella encountered a trans person she presumed their experience was like hers but they had transitioned.
  • In Ireland, Stella has released three best-selling books, Cotton Wool Kids, Bully-proof Kids, and Fragile.
  • In 2018, Stella’s husband encouraged her to take part in the movie Trans Kids: It’s Time to Talk.
  • Sasha reached out to Lisa Marchiano after hearing her being interviewed on Feminist Current.
  • When Stella and Sasha first began there was no support and shortly after they realized they were lonely pioneers.
  • When all of her speaking engagements were canceled during COVID-19, Stella created the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.
  • This podcast was an opportunity to disseminate important gender information to the masses instead of a few.
  • The Gender: A Wider Lens podcast has 830,000 downloads.
  • Stella and Sasha share some listener reviews.
  • Sasha shares the next steps for the podcast, YouTube, and a new community.
  • Brilliant volunteers have been integral to the current and future success of the podcast.
  • Listener support for this podcast makes a difference to all interested in the gender subjects covered on this show.

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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

Thank you to our sponsors:
Genspect - an international organization which offers an alternative to WPATH. Providing a range of education, resources and supports to anyone impacted by gender distress, Genspect unites many different organizations globally, and gives voice to 1,000s of previously untold stories. For more info, visit genspect.org.

GETA - an association of therapists who believe that individuals experiencing gender related concerns ought to be treated using a whole person approach. GETA connects like minded clinicians, provides educational resources and trainings, and helps people with gender dysphoria find support. For more info, visit genderexploratory.com.
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.