Meet Dr. Elijah C. Nealy, a therapist and former deputy executive director of New York City’s LGBT Community Center, a trans man, and the author of a comprehensive guide to understanding, supporting, and welcoming trans kids. As part of our Spotlight series, Dr. Nealy recently chatted with guest blogger Nathan Tabak about what he’ll be doing at Gender Odyssey Seattle this year.
What will you be presenting at Gender Odyssey this year?
I will be leading two workshops this year. One is for families: “Insider Insights for Cisgender Family Members: Understanding and Supporting Your Transgender Teens and Young Adults.” Essentially this workshop goes beyond basic concepts and initial transition tasks to explore the more complex emotional nuances trans youth encounter as they navigate their day-to-day lives “post-transition” – new friendships, dating, relationships, sex, choosing a college or starting their first job.
The other workshop is “Coming Out, Countertransference, and Community: A Workshop for Trans and Gender Fluid/Queer Clinicians.” This is intended to be a conversation about how, when, why, and whether or not we [as clinicians] come out to clients, our dual relationships with trans clients, how to navigate clinical work when “our stuff” as trans people gets kicked up, and how to find our own community support as trans-identified clinicians, especially when our mutual communities tend to be fairly small.
What main takeaway would you like to see attendees of your presentations come away with?
My hope is that cisgender family members will leave with a greater emotional understanding, and thus increased ability to talk with and support their trans children. Similarly, I hope other trans-identified clinicians leave with a greater sense of connection and support.
In a climate of unprecedented visibility and new challenges confronting our
community, what makes your topics particularly relevant?
Workshop #1: The unprecedented visibility makes this a very critical time for families. The challenges parents face are constantly shifting and evolving, so there is a continual need for new advocacy strategies, and new ways to communicate with and support our kids.
On the professional side, there is a growing number of trans-identified clinicians. This creates a need for spaces where we can connect, mentor, and support each other.
How does your own experience as a trans man inform your perspective on today’s trans kids?
Cisgender family members sometimes struggle to understand the experiences of their trans children. I’ve titled the family workshop “Insider Insights,” in part because my own experience as a trans man sometimes gives me a more nuanced understanding, since I may have had similar experiences. At the same time, being a father allows me to appreciate the unique struggles and joys parents often encounter. I often see my role as the “family translator” between trans youth and their parents in my work.
What is the most important issue facing trans kids today?
It takes tremendous sense of self, courage, and strength to name yourself in a world that tells you you’re not who you know you are. It’s essential that trans youth have the consistent love and support of the adults in their lives.
What do you personally hope to take away from this year’s conference?
I’m excited about connecting with parents and other family members and hearing their stories, as well as meeting new colleagues.
Given what’s happening right now in our country, it’s more important than ever for us to come together at this year’s Gender Odyssey Conference.
For the past 25 years, Elijah C. Nealy, PhD, MDiv, LCSW has worked extensively with LGBTQ adolescents and adults in both pastoral and social service capacities. Currently assistant professor of social work at the University of Saint Joseph, he provides trainings in health and mental healthcare settings and consultation around work with transgender and gender-variant children, youth, and adults. His clinical practice has focused on transgender and gender-diverse youth and their families. Ordained with Metropolitan Community Church, Elijah also preaches and provides workshops for faith communities and other organizations. An out trans man and author of Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride and Joy with Families in Transition [Norton 2017], Elijah lives in Connecticut with his partner and is the proud father of three amazing young people.