Episode 12

Published on:

26th Feb 2021

12 - Identity vs Role Confusion in Adolescence

The psychologist Erik Erickson’s theory of psychosocial development makes some essential observations about the period of adolescence and identifies the questions at this phase of life as “Who Am I?” and “What can I Be?”. Sasha and Stella examine this developmental period and ask how the concept of gender identity lays atop the teenage struggle for belonging, individuation, sexual development, and autonomy.


Extended Notes

  • The process of growing up; although it looks different across cultures, we all have to go through it.
  • Stella shares the coming of age ceremonies she did for her children.
  • There are 8 stages of “growing up” that we do, according to Erik Erikson:
  • Infancy
  • Toddler
  • Early childhood
  • Middle childhood
  • Adolescence
  • 20s–30s — Seeking intimacy
  • 40s–60s — Stagnation
  • 60s+ — Your legacy
  • It’s so important for children to do things with a sense of conviction.
  • Why are the adolescent years so turbulent?
  • Erik Erikson was the person who coined the phrase, “Identity crisis.”
  • Up until 12 years old, everything a parent says is considered “law.” After 12, they turn it off and take in outside influences. This makes sense. Children need this process.
  • Children reject everything you stand for because they don’t want to be a clone of you.
  • As a mother, Stella says there is nothing that strikes terror in our hearts more when our children are unhappy.
  • Once our children are teenagers, is there nothing we can do to help them through this process?
  • Parents need to have a working knowledge of what their teenagers are swimming in. This is a vital time to build a stronger relationship with the child, not disconnect from them.
  • Do you want to understand where your children are coming from? Make the effort to learn what they’re into.
  • Teenagers are agonizing over what to call themselves. It’s difficult. There are a lot of categories to choose from.
  • As our sexuality develops, there is some shame around our feelings.
  • When it comes to becoming transgender, children are not good at making judgments about long-term things.
  • Teenagers sometimes can get wrapped up in the fantasy of blaming someone else for their developmental confusion.
  • No one has perfect parents.
  • There is a common thread on online forums that parents reject trans children, so it sets the child up to be defensive when they get ready to reveal their true identity.
  • So many people are lost in their 20s. That sense of being “lost” is a very vital time in finding yourself.
  • Stella shares the differences between parents and their financial commitments in Ireland vs. the U.S. It appears U.S. children need more of their parents’ financial support throughout their mid-20s.
  • There is a struggle for children to become independent from their parents in the West.

This podcast is partially sponsored by ReIME, Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics:


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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.

* We are sponsored by ReIME and Genspect.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving long term care for gender variant individuals. To learn more, visit https://rethinkime.org/

Genspect is an international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people. Parents are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support; many do not feel free to speak out about their concerns.
To learn more, visit https://genspect.org/
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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.