Rae McDaniel on Helping Transgender, Non-Binary, and Questioning Folks | PoP 565

As a person and as a therapist, what can you do to support people within the LGTBQ+ community? What does it mean to be an ally? How can you incorporate an active implementation of anti-oppressive and anti-racism work within your practice?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Rae McDaniel about helping transgender, non-binary, and questioning folks.

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Meet Rae McDaniel

Rae McDaniel is a non-binary gender and sex therapist-turned-coach who works with transgender/non-binary/questioning folks feeling lost while transitioning their gender identity. They are the creator of GenderFck: The Club, a one-of-a-kind, research-based online group coaching community of transgender/non-binary/questioning folks who are on a mission to transition with less suffering and more ease.

Rae is the founder of Practical Audacity, a gender and sex therapy practice in Chicago. They also provide training for medical and mental health professionals wishing to uplevel their knowledge in trans-affirming care. Rae holds a Master’s of Education in community counseling.

Visit Rae’s website. Connect on Facebook and Instagram.

Click here for some resources to learn more about the transgender/non-binary community, or get in touch with Rae about having they speak at your organization.

Text “Practical Audacity” to 131 2487 3550 for resources specific to clinicians

In This Podcast

  • How can you support someone in the LGTBQ+ community?
  • Rae’s anti-oppressive practice meeting
  • Rae’s advice to private practitioners

How can you support someone in the LGTBQ+ community?

I think when it comes to any sort of identity piece, whether that is sexual orientation or whether that is gender, you can support and listen while also not expecting that person to be your one and only education about what it means to be queer. (Rae McDaniel)

  • Practice active listening,
  • Be curious,
  • Asking permission before asking deeper questions,
  • Let people know that you are available to be added to someone’s chosen family

If you want to and are able to, let your friends who are a part of the LGTBQ+ community know that your family accepts and welcomes them because sometimes those folks have been shunned or turned out from their own families.

You can also be an ally, not only as a support network, by getting involved in the political level by making your opinions and feelings known and getting in touch with your representatives.

At the end of the day, as much as we want to change hearts and minds, a lot of times we have to start at the policy level because if there isn’t that basic safety then it is really difficult to get to that hearts and minds place. (Rae McDaniel)

Rae’s anti-oppressive practice meeting

Once a month Rae’s group practice will hold an anti-oppressive practice meeting where the entire staff sits in and discusses anti-oppressive, what that is and how they can approach it in their practice. This meeting is not leadership-led, it is community-based and group-led.

We knew we wanted to create a space that was specifically dedicated to the anti-oppressive practice and anti-racism [discussions]. (Rae McDaniel)

There is a running list of topics that are voted on to be discussed each month, and each month there is a new host, a volunteer from the group practice, who looks into the topic and finds reading materials to circulate.

Each topic is broken down into two focuses:

  • The why: focuses on personal reflection and rooting out personal biases,
  • The how: active application of what was discussed in the previous meeting and how to implement that in reality.

Rae’s advice to private practitioners

Being trans-competent and affirming is an essential part of being a competent multi-cultural provider. All therapists have the base skills they need to provide gender-affirming services for people.

Useful Links:

Meet Joe Sanok

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Podcast Transcription

JOE SANOK] From the moment you think to yourself, I want to start a private practice until that moment you hit six figures, we’ve got your back with Next Level Practice. Next Level Practice is our membership community, where we bring in experts like John Lee, Dumas, Pat Flynn, Julie Schwartz Gottman, and Lori Gottlieb, to get to know you, to help you get to that next level. As well, we have over 30 e-courses that will help you start and grow your private practice, courses about blogging, about the nuts and bolts of having a private practice or how to network so that you actually get clients. If you want to fill up your practice quickly, I want you to join Next Level Practice. Head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite to request your invite today. We want to make sure that you’re a great fit. So again, that’s practiceofthepractice.com/invite if you think you might be a fit for Next Level Practice
[JOE] This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 560. I am Joe, Sanok your host. Welcome, welcome, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I just love when I find out that there’s new people listening. So if you are brand new to this show, welcome. I hope you’re getting some things out of it. We have over 500 episodes as you can see, because we’re on 565 today and feel free to go back and look at the archive and check out some of those older shows or check out some of the newer shows. We just had an amazing series that Alison and Whitney did. They did some live consulting all around group practices, and I’m just so excited about all that they’re doing with Group Practice Boss and with their live consulting they did.

Last week we had LaToya Smith talking about how to have an anti-racist practice. So tons of amazing content especially around social justice issues and clinical issues and marketing issues, all of those things. So make sure you check out some of those more recent shows or some of the shows that have been around for a little bit. Well, today I am so excited to have Rae McDaniel. Rae is a non binary gender and sex therapist turned coach who works with transgender, non-binary, questioning folks, feeling lost while transitioning their gender identity, and they have so much to offer. Rae I am so excited to have you on the Practice of the Practice podcast. Welcome.
[RAE] Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
[JOE] Oh, I am too and for a lot of different reasons, but let’s just start with your story. We’d love to just hear, oh, before we start there you and I had talked about how this episode, we may have a few swear words and, or maybe not even, I just watched the History of Swear Words on Netflix. And so to even call them swear words seems little off. So we may have some words that you may not want to expose your kids to during this episode. Feel free to listen to it first, put headphones in, things like that. I just want to give you that kind of heads up from the front end. So Rae let’s just start with a little bit of your story. So you’re the founder of Practical Audacity, which is a gender and sex therapy practice in Chicago, you’ve done a ton of different kind of work, but tell us a little bit about your story and how you got into this work.
[RAE] Yes. So if we go way back, the beginning of my story is quite a trip. So I am the adopted child of fundamentalist Baptist missionary puppeteers in the deep south. So I’ve come a long way since then. I got into psychology in general and kind of found my love of therapy in undergrad. At the time I wasn’t out as queer, which I am now, but my best friends on campus were the gay kids, specifically the theater kids who were out and gay in this very small, oppressive, tiny college in the woods of East Texas. And I started noticing their journey to coming out and how they navigated that in such an oppressive environment was really challenging for them. And so I decided I wanted to be a therapist. I decided specifically I wanted to be a therapist who worked with the LGBTQ population. So I escaped the south and went to grad school in Chicago and really focused all of my work in grad school and after that, on the LGBTQ population and then in early 2018 —
[JOE] Now, before we go too far into that, I want to ask a question about kind of your parents, if that’s okay.
[RAE] Absolutely.
[JOE] So fundamentalists, and then you identify this way, talk about how did that process work? Did that change them? Did they, I don’t know if you feel comfortable talking about how they responded, but knowing my evangelical friends and some of the past that I’ve had, I can imagine how that conversation would go down in my head, but that may not be accurate. What do you feel comfortable sharing from that part of the journey?
[RAE] I’m super comfortable talking about that part of my life and what you can imagine as how that conversation went is probably how it went. So it wasn’t good. It did not go well. My parents, they rejected me pretty much outright. There was a lot of discussion about how homosexuality is a sin and love the sinner hate the sin type of rhetoric. but I think the most dramatic is that when I tried to talk with my mother about it, one-on-one, I remember being in the parking lot of my therapy job, about to go in and have a full day of therapy clients and my dad calling me on the phone and telling me to stay away from his family and threatening me with a restraining order.
[JOE] Wow.
[RAE] Yes.
[JOE] I just can’t imagine —
[RAE] It hasn’t really changed much since then.
[JOE] How does that inform your work now? I know we all have things that have hurt us and I can’t even imagine that. I mean, I can imagine it, but how does that inform your work now? How has that helped you be a stronger advocate therapist going through that?
[RAE] I think it gave me a lot of empathy for my clients. You know, I know what it means to be rejected by your family. I know what it means to feel like you don’t belong. I know what it means to be in an environment that is really oppressive and that doesn’t celebrate or affirm who you are. I think it’s also given me, or I guess I should say it has forced me to develop a really, really strong rooted, chosen family very early in my life, which has been such a blessing. You know, I’m surrounded by support. I am affirmed in all the ways that I can imagine minus my adopted family in my life right now. And I think that is a really, really amazing gift to have.
[JOE] Yes. To be able to choose who are those people that I want to call family compared to just inheriting them by blood, it just seems like that would be a hard choice to have to make, but it sounds like the choice was kind of made for you by your parents in the way that they responded. So you’re in Chicago, oh, sorry, go ahead.
[RAE] Well, I was going to say it, I think coming out and dealing with family is such a nuanced topic. I’m still in contact with them, but I’m very boundaried and I think it’s a constant negotiation of what feels good for me, what does that boundary look like and how can I engage with them in a way that still affirms who I am and protects me and protects my heart and my boundaries and who I am as a person.
[JOE] Yes. Well, and what an important lesson for us all to learn in regards to how we relate with our family to even just think about, for you that was front and center and something that you couldn’t live your life, I’m guessing without sharing that with your family and coming out. But how often do people that have other things not share with their, and don’t set those boundaries and don’t have that authentic and maybe even tough relationship with their family? So, man, that just is a tough story knowing so many of my friends that have gone through that in particular type of story. And when I think about being an ally, someone that wants to align myself with the GLBTQ community, what are the, and maybe we’re jumping ahead here, but what are the things that as friends come out or you are talking to their families or have gone through that trauma that I, as a straight white guy that has so much privilege in the world, how can I use that privilege in a way that doesn’t cause harm? Because I really try to tread lightly and let people guide the conversation rather than me guiding it. But what are ways that allies can jump into help. And it doesn’t have to be in regards to the coming out, but what are some ways that we can help?
[RAE] I think that’s such a great question. So there’s a lot of really basic things that make a huge difference. And so if we’re talking interpersonally, you know you mentioned friends who are going through this process, just listening and being curious and doing exactly what you just did, which is asking permission before asking deeper questions or questions that somebody might feel are invasive. And that is not my experience around my family at all. I talk about my story quite a bit, but I think when it comes to any sort of identity piece, whether that is sexual orientation or whether that is gender, you can support and listen, while also not expecting that person to be your one and only education about what it means to be queer or what it means to be trans or non-binary.

So I think that goes a long way. I mentioned chosen family being available for that makes a really big difference. I have a ton of people in my life who have essentially adopted me into their families and I feel very, very lucky for that. Not everybody has that. So letting people know that they are available for that, inviting people to holidays, inviting people over for a family, dinner, those are all things that make a really big difference. I think at the systemic level, we know there’s been a lot of media attention in the last week or so on all the anti-trans laws that are being passed currently. There’s a lot that you can do as an ally to advocate for trans inclusion at the lawmaker and system level. So I definitely encourage people to do that, reach out to your lawmakers, reach out to your representatives, let them know what you value and what you stand for, because at the end of the day, as much as we want to change hearts and minds, a lot of times we have to start at the policy level because if there isn’t that basic safety, then it is really difficult to get to that hearts and minds place.
[JOE] Yes. Yes. Well, with Practical Audacity, your practice, tell me about how that got going. What were some of the things that helped you in that launch and tell us about the practice.
[RAE] So I started Practical Audacity in early 2018 and I had just finished my sex therapy training and had gotten my sex therapies certification at that point. I started it as a solo practice. I wasn’t planning on developing a group practice. I had just left a group practice and kind of wanted to be on my own for a little bit, but when I was looking for office space, my real estate agent found a three suite office that was a storefront with a waiting room that was a 10 minute walk from my house and the same price as one office. And so I went for it. I had no idea what I was going to do with the space and three months into my solo practice, I was booked out and having to turn people away and I got an email from a colleague who wrote me a very long and persuasive email about why I should hire her right away to come work for me. She made some good points. So I did, and the group practice was born and we’ve doubled or tripled in size every year. So there’s 12 of us. Now we’ve outgrown our space. We’re looking for another one and we all focus on gender and sex therapy specifically.
[JOE] And what do you do to make sure that you have, and maybe don’t focus on having a cohesive model, but because I think the culture of a practice is something that’s often discussed when you have a group practice. And it’s one thing to go from one person to two or three, and then to go from three to 12. There’s a lot of things that can get lost in that growth, especially in such a short period of time. So how have you fostered a sense of we’re doing this similar type of work versus I’m just going to let everyone kind of have their own approach to things?
[RAE] Ooh, I love this question. So from the very beginning of starting the group practice, I really wanted to create a culture that felt cohesive, that felt connected and not just people that go and do their jobs and then go home. And I will say we’ve had some growing pains. You know, we’ve grown a ton in the past three years and we’ve had to go through a lot of stages of figuring out what is the culture that we’re trying to create and how do we stay connected to each other. So where we’re at right now is me and the admin team, which is a big part of keeping that culture created and maintained. We’re able to sit down and really spell out what our values were as a practice to spell out what we wanted our culture to look like and do a lot of work and check-ins with our staff to make sure that they’re feeling good and supported every step of the way.

So some things that we’ve done to promote that as I, we made up a job called a community and culture lead. So one of our clinicians has taken that on. They work about six to eight hours a week on this job and their sole job is to maintain the company culture. So they do staff “outings.” Right now they’re not outings. They’re all on Zoom, but in non quarantine times it would actually be outings that we do once a quarter. We try to create events every month that people can connect to each other on, we do games and our staff meetings that help people get to know each other a little bit better. We send out a quarterly survey that just kind of checks in with the staff on a lot of different areas regarding how they’re feeling in their role, how they’re feeling with tele-health right now. Are they feeling supported clinically? Are they feeling supported personally and really getting that data. And then we also implemented, we call it an anti-oppressive practice meeting that we meet once a month for an hour and a half, where we as a whole staff discuss one aspect of anti-oppressive practice. And it kind of varies on what that is and it’s community and group led instead of leadership led. We also have a practice staff meeting —
[JOE] I’ll want to more about that because I haven’t heard of practices doing that and that sounds super cool. Will you break down what that meeting, how it flows, how are topics brought up if it’s not leadership led, just a little bit more about what those meetings look like?
[RAE] Yes. So this has also gone through a couple of iterations as we figure out what is this space? So we knew that we wanted to create a space that was specifically dedicated to anti-oppressive practice and anti-racism. So it started out as a space for the white people on our staff and being, I know I’m a white CEO, our clinical director is also a white person, and so we wanted to create a space to unpack whiteness. So we started working through Me and White Supremacy as a staff and then we found that the people of color on staff wanted to participate in that group, but having it set up as a space that focused on whiteness didn’t really feel quite right having the people of color join us. So we changed our focus so that we vote as a group on what our next topic is going to be.

We kind of have a running list. So we’ve done things related to say body positivity to anti-blackness that we’re seeing to xenophobia. Our upcoming two months are going to be focused on the anti-Asian hate that is really rising in the US and globally and unpacking that. And we set it up, we kind of borrowed from Me and White Supremacy’s circle structure. And so we have somebody who is the host, that’s a volunteer person that rotates every month and they kind of look into the topic. They might give some reading materials, but everybody’s also expected to do their own learning and their own reading and come with ideas and thoughts. We’ve also broken each topic down into two focus, focuses, focusi? What’s that word? I don’t know.

So the first time that we talk about a topic is the why, which is mainly focused on that personal reflection. How are we complicit in whatever anti-depressive topic we’re talking about, how do we root out bias in ourself, wow do we see this playing out for our clients? The next month we have the same topic, but we focus on how. So we focus on the application of how do we take our personal learnings about this and use it to intentionally create a more anti-oppressive environment in our practice. And so far that structure is working out really well and it’s such a really incredible space that we’re really proud of.
[JOE] Wow, that’s such good work to be doing and to do it with a bunch of therapists and just that’s, thanks for kind of deconstructing that for us. I think that’s helpful.
[RAE] Absolutely.
[JOE] So you have a community that is called GenderFck: The Club. It’s a one of a kind research-based online group coaching community. I want to hear more about that. I want to hear about the name, I want to hear about what it is, how it works. Tell me about that and why you started it.
[RAE] Absolutely. So I started GenderFck: The Club, because I was tired of only seeing stories and information for trans and non-binary folks who were exploring their gender as well as training for medical and mental health professionals that focused exclusively on the negative parts of gender transitioning and really centered the entire conversation around trans suffering. And I know that there, I don’t want to minimize that there is a lot of very legitimate barriers systemically for trans folks. We know that there are high rates of violence against trans people, we know that trans folks are chronically underemployed, and a lot of folks are in poverty and that is a real story. And I think that only having the focus on that suffering was leaving out a lot of the story that I thought was important, which was all of the strength-based ways that gender transition was helping folks live their most authentic life.

I also was seeing a lot of literature that was very focused on what are all the really terrible things about being trans and how do we kind of negate that or cope with that. And I was really interested in exploring what are the strengths based coping skills so that we, as clinicians can help trans folks transition their gender with more ease, curiosity, joy, and pleasure. So I started looking into a bunch of stuff across psychology, research and resiliency, coping skills, identity development, minority stress, writings from fields other than psychology, like human centered design thinking, looking at mindfulness and grounding models and taking my own experience as a non-binary person and someone who’s worked in this field for eight plus years. And I kind of took all the ways that I had been working with people and put it into a cohesive model that I called GenderFck. The name came from the idea of really being able to play with gender and an uninhibited and shame free way, which is what I want to create for everybody. And it’s spelled GenderFck, no ‘U’, because I thought we’d be a little bit polite at least and GenderFck: The Club is where GenderFck: The Model is housed.
[JOE] So tell me about the model.
[RAE] Yes. So the model has three main pillars. So we focus on play, pleasure and possibility, and it has nine modules. So three modules per pillar that go deeper into these three main concepts or places to focus on with mindset, reframes and shifts and actionable and research-based skills to help people really be able to engage with gender exploration in a way that wasn’t so anxiety provoking, that may be felt a little bit easier. So what we’ve done in GenderFck: The Club is it’s a group coaching membership and includes a 10 -eek course that walks people through GenderFck model and then live group coaching from me as well as an online membership community where people can get professional and peer support. I’m in there a few times a week but it’s a really fun and amazing group of people that I feel really lucky to be working with.
[JOE] Wow, that’s such a needed resource. So when you think about what every private practitioner in the world needs to know, if you had that possibility to tell everyone, what would you want every private practitioner in the world to know?
[RAE] Ooh, I love this question. So if I could tell everybody listening, one thing it would be that being trans competent and affirming is an essential part of being a multi-culturally competent provider. We know that there’s a huge lack of education in the mental health world on providing trans-affirming services and I see requests all the time in all of my communities for trans-affirming providers. And I think the good news is that I believe all therapists have the base skills that they need to be able to provide gender affirming services for people. It’s just about applying it in a specific way to this population, but it’s not as scary as you think. So I really encourage people to do their own work and get education around providing trans-competent services because I really and truly believe that when more people are walking around as their most authentic self in the world, the world is a better place. And really that’s what gender transition is all about, getting our clients and people to the place where they can just be their most authentic lit up selves in the world, and then go on and do all the things that they are meant to do without having gender be this big dark cloud in their brain.
[JOE] Wow. Well, if people want to work with you, Rae what’s the best way for them to sign up for the club to learn more, to read more? Where would you point them?
[RAE] So people can find me at GenderFck, that’s GenderFck, with no ‘U’ so genderfck.club. And then if you’re interested in resources, then you can go to genderfck.club/podcastresources. And if you’re interested in resources specific to clinicians, you can text “practical audacity” to 1 312 487 3550, and then Joe, I’ll make sure that you have that number from the show notes as well.
[JOE] Awesome. Well, Rae, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[RAE] Thank you so much for having me.
[JOE] Wow, what an amazing interview. Go take that action that Rae was talking about. I feel like we could have gone on for multiple episodes or so. I feel like we just scratched the surface in regards to this topic, in regards to helping people, in regards to being competent in this area. There’s so much more work that needs to be done and I want to encourage you to figure out within your own practice, whether you have a solo practice or a group practice, how can you implement some of these things that Rae talked about today? They’re very important, they are going to help your practice, are going to help your clients and go take some action. Don’t just consume this podcast. Go take some action.

Also, just a reminder that our sponsor today is Next Level Practice. Next Level Practice is our membership community that is aimed at helping people get to that six figures. So from that moment that you think I want to start a private practice all the way until you hit six figures, Next Level Practice is for you. Our next cohort opens in just a couple of weeks on June 14th. So make sure that you’ve gone over to practiceofthepractice.com/invite so that you get that invite to join Next Level Practice. It’s only $99 a month. I mean, if you get one client that comes once it pays for it. We have over 30 e-courses. As well, we now have free access to CEUs and we bring in experts like Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, and a variety of other experts. So again, that’s practiceofthepractice.com/invite. Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain today. Have an awesome rest of your day.

Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.

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