Today, we are thrilled to introduce the Windhorse community to Rebecca Minor! Rebecca is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice, part-time faculty at Boston University’s School of Social Work, and a Gender Specialist. As a Gender Specialist, she partners with trans and gender nonconforming youth through their journey of becoming and expressing their truth as well as guiding parents in affirming their children's identity. To say the Windhorse team has been blown away by Rebecca's work is an understatement and we consider ourselves lucky to work alongside her and her growing practice. Take a look at Alannah's recent conversation with Rebecca below!
ALANNAH: To start us off, can you describe your path to becoming a counselor?
REBECCA: I am a third-generation social worker. My grandmother technically didn't go to college, but she worked for the ACLU for decades. I knew that I wanted to do something clinical, so, when I went to a small liberal arts school, I double majored in theater and psychology. I still wanted to have a conservatory-level theater experience but be able to get another degree.
For my freshman writing seminar, I chose a course called Queer and Pleasant Danger. No one had used that word much around me at that point in 2007. I thought it was so exciting! It was in that class that I first read one of Kate Borenstein's books and got exposed to what a trans-centered narrative could look like that wasn't the grave misrepresentation portrayed by most of the media. This topic was at the intersection of so many things that I was interested in and ultimately became about how I can support people in living their truth and in the fullness of who they are.
From there, I tailored my education as best as I could because, at the time, there weren't specific tracks for working with trans and gender-expansive folks. I pieced together what I could and did independent studies and made any general paper more specific.
After graduating from undergrad, I was working at McLean in the eating disorder unit. That was when I started to see how honoring people’s identities impacted their symptoms. Following that experience, I did a research fellowship at Mass General.
That was really a tipping point where I knew I didn’t want to get a Ph.D. - I wanted to help people now. I went to social work school and I realized that I could still teach, write, and run a practice as a social worker. I tailored my graduate experience to working with trans folks and started to build a reputation for working in the gender and sexuality space. Once I was able to work for myself, I opened my practice focused on supporting queer and trans youth and their families.
ALANNAH: Tell us a little bit more about how your practice evolved.
REBECCA: I was initially working just with individuals. I did that for a number of years and grew both frustrated and concerned that I could really only move the needle so much when I was working with individuals, especially young people. If they're going home to an environment that isn't supportive - either intentionally or unintentionally - it can continually undermine the work that we are doing.
I remembered one of my favorite professors had told this story about a man who goes to a village and sees people pulling babies out of a river. The man goes to help them but eventually realizes that they would be forever pulling babies out of the river unless someone goes upstream to figure out why babies are in the river in the first place.
I knew that I had to go upstream to work with parents and caregivers. I wanted to make an impact at the systemic level if I could. I was finding that parents had tons of questions and were constantly reaching out and wanting support. I didn't want the lines to get blurry between my role as an individual therapist and I wasn't specifically looking to do family therapy. Still, I felt that parents really needed their own support, and that is how I started offering parent coaching. I’m able to provide more active tools parents can implement right away.
"I knew that I had to go upstream to work with parents and caregivers. I wanted to make an impact at the systemic level if I could."
ALANNAH: How does your work with parents intersect your work with individual clients?
REBECCA: Every set of parents that I work with is different, yet many parents come in with similar concerns. The process often starts with unpacking their own relationships to gender and identity before they can even get into what it means for them to show up for their kid.
We have all been socialized in an incredibly binary, gendered world and we don't even realize the extent to which that has seeped its way into our habitual use of language, the ways we engage with other people, and the assumptions we make.
When we invite parents into a conversation about identity in that way, they then are able to have their own shifts and aha moments. That process makes it easier for them to really want to show up for their kid. In the gender space, suicidal risk is a legitimate concern with it being four times the national average. Yet, we know how much parental or family acceptance improves those concerns. My job is to empower parents to understand their ability to create change in their own homes, in their school system, and in their communities and ensure kids feel affirmed in their identity.
There’s also the very practical side of this work. I help parents approach conversations with other family members and determine what they are willing to give up to show up in support of their kid. This time of year often brings up specific questions regarding gender-affirming summer clothes or how to approach camp bunks as well.
ALANNAH: Has collaborating with other counselors in the space been a value add to your practice? How do you approach collaboration?
REBECCA: It's been fantastic having similar practices to refer clients to when I’m at capacity. There's such an extreme need for competent care right now and I was thrilled to cross paths with Windhorse. If I can’t see a young person, I know you folks will make a great fit and I can work with those parents. Together, we can create a holistic sense of care so that everyone involved has access to the resources that they need. We can really support the young person ultimately by supporting both them and their family.
"Together, we can create a holistic sense of care so that everyone involved has access to the resources that they need."
ALANNAH: Yes, absolutely. There are so many parents who have questions for us even if gender and identity are not the presenting issue that brought them into our practice. When we collaborate with you and your practice, everyone has their own resource. In my mind, that vastly improves treatment outcomes.
REBECCA: This is a wonderful thing with medication too. It's incredibly rare for me to be able to find a practice where there's a provider who has availability and experience around gender and sexuality, especially with young people. It's been wonderful to be able to partner with Windhorse in that way as well.
ALANNAH: With June being Pride Month, are there any resources you recommend to anyone curious about learning more about you or gender & identity in general?