Promoting respect and education: Leading Wilderness Therapy Program observes Transgender Awareness Month

Trails Carolina wilderness therapy promotes acceptance, respect, and education for the  support of transgender individuals
Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for young people ages 10-17, offers support for transgender youth by promoting education for those who have a limited understanding of the challenges transgender individuals may face.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, 41 percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. That’s almost nine times the national average.
It’s important to promote transgender awareness because so many people are uneducated about the struggles that transgender individuals are experiencing,” says Leigh Uhlenkott MS, LCPS, NCC, LMHC,  Primary Therapist at Trails Carolina. “Families with transgender children need to grieve the loss of their child they had at birth and accept and affirm the child they come to know.” Leigh continued, “As a parent of a transgender daughter my family and friends had no knowledge until I started to educate them. The grandparents and siblings were all in shock, denial, and angry. Then they grieved and accepted their child. But it takes time. It’s a process.”
Trails Carolina utilizes diversity training to help staff and students understand and appreciate diversity. As a program providing a safe space for all students, Trails Carolina accepts students of all gender identities.
Trails Carolina understands the importance of meeting transgender youth where they are at on their emotional journey. Transgender teens face many challenges, including:

  • Feeling anxious, depressed and angry at the world for the way their bodies are.
  • Having to face loved ones who may not understand what they are going through.
  • Being forced to conform to their parents’ idea of their identity.
  • Keeping their identity a secret
  • Facing looks, whispers, and mean-spirited questions about why they wanted to be the opposite gender.

The parents of transgender youth need the support and courage to face their families and the community who may be less accepting of their child. It can sometimes feel as if you are all alone on an island. People often blame the parents for messing up their child’s life. Many families may even move to protect their child from bullying,” commented Uhlenkott.
Trails Carolina is currently preparing for GEMS (Gender Education Demystification Symposium) which will take place in January. This symposium is designed to offer a clinical and educational perspective on gender identity for industry professionals. Keynotes speakers include: Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, a renowned Developmental and Clinical Psychologist specializing in gender and non-conforming children, Dr. Stephen Rosenthal, program director for Pediatric Endocrinology and director of the Endocrine Clinics, International speaker Ryan Sallans, and Transgender Youth Project Staff Attorney, Asaf Orr, Esq.
“We are so excited to be organizing this great event. We are hoping to start a conversation regarding gender awareness and education in order to spread a message of acceptance,”says Dr. John Singleton, Director of Business Development at Trails Carolina.
Trails Carolina would like to thank the sponsors of GEMS: Ashcreek Ranch Academy, Chamberlain School, Ken Cuave, PhD, Elevations RTC, InnerChange, Kolob Canyon RTC, La Europa Academy, Mountain Springs Preparatory School, Solstice East, Solstice West, Summit Preparatory School, ViewPoint Center, Vive, Dragonfly Transitions, The Bodin Group and Youth Care.
Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program based just outside of Asheville, North Carolina that offers a multi-dimensional wilderness therapy model to troubled adolescents, ages 10-17. Trails capitalizes upon the profound effects of a student’s wilderness experience, and then combines that experience with strong clinical assessments and therapy. For additional information about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303.