I run group therapy for women who have experienced gendered violence such as domestic violence, rape and sexual abuse, where the perpetrators are more often than not male (and 100% male in the clients I have worked with).
I am very concerned about the mental health and triggering of PTSD symptoms in these women by allowing trans women who have not fully transitioned or are evidently not female in appearance into the group, because of the triggering effect this may have on the mental health of the women in the group when it is supposed to be a safe space for women, free from triggers which in large part include men due to the abuse suffered.
I can’t advertise that this group is for cis-women only, because of the possibility of losing my registration to practice as a psychologist due to gender identity discrimination, however, I am also ethically obligated to “do no harm” to my clients, and my experiences are that this would be harmful to some of my clients and would result in an environment of silence, hyper vigilance and anxiety, rather than a place of growth, sharing and healing.
While I recognise that trans women are also at very high risk of abuse by men, and need spaces to heal also, they don’t seem to have empathy for cis-women in understanding that being a man, whether or not you identify as one, is one of the biggest PTSD triggers for women who have experienced gendered violence and many women who have been through gendered trauma, need a space that is free from men and people who have at any point identified as men, to be able to share their experiences without fear and feel safe to do so.
I feel an ethical responsibility to these women to protect their safe space for trauma treatment, but am conflicted about how to hold a safe space for these women and still have safe spaces for trans and gender non-conforming individuals as a seperate trauma workshop, without being accused of transphobia or being a TERF.
The fact is, both cis-women and trans women have different needs when it comes to safe group therapy spaces for trauma treatment, but how do we achieve this when we aren’t even allowed to discuss it?