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Gender and Sexuality Issues in Transamerica

Watch the film Transamerica starring Felicity Huffman. Use the film to answer the following question.

Imagine that it is 12 months after the events of the film. Bree Osbourne has moved to Phoenix, where her parents and sister live, and is in school getting a degree in education, planning to become a high school math and history teacher. Toby has moved in with her and is working part-time at a men's clothing store while getting his GED. He has been clean from drugs for nine months, after relapsing one time and smoking pot just before the move.

Bree's relationship with her parents is improving somewhat though her mother Elizabeth and father Murray are still uncomfortable with her gender transition, and have a hard time referring to her as Bree and our daughter. Murray refused to let Toby in the house for the first six months, saying "that kid stole from us and he is not going to get a chance to do it again," but Elizabeth pursued a relationship with her grandson, and Murray has warmed up somewhat. Elizabeth wants Toby to start coming to their temple with them, which Toby says does not interest him.

Her sister Sydney defends Bree and Toby to Elizabeth and Murray, but Bree accuses her of sabotaging her efforts to parent Toby. She invites him to late-night parties with her friends where there is alcohol, and he has missed shifts at work twice because he was out late with Sydney. Once he was brought home by the police when he was picked up while walking home from a party where he had been drinking. Bree complains that Sydney "does not respect my rules, and so neither does Toby." Toby points out that he is about to successfully complete his GED, and has managed to keep his job, and says that Bree needs to "relax and let me make some friends." Bree wants him to make friends his own age. He has spent brief periods of time dating one of Sydney's girlfriends, and later dating a much older man whom he met on Craigslist. Bree worries about his choice of older partners, saying "I do not think it is a good idea." In the meantime, Sydney expresses anger at Bree for showing up after all these years and making herself the center of attention.

Three months after her surgery, Bree made contact with Calvin Manygoats in New Mexico. They began to keep in touch by phone, and when she moved to Phoenix, he came to town for the weekend and helped her move into her new apartment with Toby. He has since then visited Phoenix twice more, staying in a motel near her apartment. Bree says "we have not put a name on our relationship," though it seems clear she is interested in him romantically.

Bree has stayed in touch with her therapist Margaret since the move, having phone sessions once a month, but Margaret has suggested that she find someone local to help her with the new developments in her life. She has called you and asked for a meeting.

Using your clinical skills as a marriage and family counselor in training, write a discussion post answering the following questions:

- What are the presenting issues in this case? To what extent are gender and sexuality issues in this case? What other systemic issues are present?
- Who would you ask to be present at the initial therapy session?
- What subsystems would you anticipate working with over the course of treatment?
- What strengths do the individuals or family in this case have at their disposal?
- What diversity issues do you see as relevant to this case?
- What would you need to learn more about in order to be prepared to work with these clients? What kinds of questions would you want to ask the clients themselves? Write at least three questions you would ask. Where could you go to get more information to enhance your competence other than from the clients themselves?
- Although Bree and other family members may present with their own goals for therapy, what are some ideas about therapeutic goals that you might consider?
- What challenges would you anticipate facing in doing therapy with this family system?
- What would you need from a supervisor while working on this case?

Solution Preview

*Watch the film Transamerica starring Felicity Huffman. Use the film to answer the following question. Using your clinical skills as a marriage and family counselor in training, write a discussion post answering the following questions:

(1) What are the presenting issues in this case?

A primary objective in any therapeutic intervention is to avoid harm to the client. Thus, in a family intervention, the therapist while working with the family as a unit, must consider all issues in which the clients may be exposed to harm. Margolin (1982) explains that marital and family therapists differ from individual counseling and/or therapy from both a practical and conceptual level. For instance, family therapy is focused on family issues, and within a family system. This involves having members of the family unity listen to the feelings of other members.
Presenting Issues:

(a) Bree has an unstable relationship with her son Toby regarding his behavior, and his choice of friends. Bree's parents Murray and Elizabeth are struggling with her gender transition (sex change). In addition, Bree's has a strained relationship with her sister as she feels she is taking over her parenting role with Toby.

(b) To what extent are gender and sexuality issues in this case?

Sexuality is very much a part of the family's problems. Murray and Elizabeth, Bree's parents are struggling with accepting her sexuality. Bree has undergone a gender transition in engaging unsatisfying relationships. Toby is involved in sexual relationships with various partner, both male and female, and most who are not his age which troubles Bree.

(c) What other systemic issues are ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses Family System therapy from the perspective of a specific case study. Issues relating to transsexuality are discussed.

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