Gender: A Wider Lens
Gender: A Wider Lens
124 - A Culture of Desistance: Schools and Gender w/ Alex Capo

124 - A Culture of Desistance: Schools and Gender w/ Alex Capo


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Alex Capo, LMHC, is the Executive Director at The Charlton School (TCS) in Burnt Hills, NY. Alex has over 25 years of clinical experience in working with children, adolescents and families in various clinical/therapeutic settings as well as schools. He has facilitated trainings for administrators, mental health professionals, teachers and students for over 10 years. He has been with TCS in various clinical and administrative positions for the past 20 years. 

In this episode, Alex describes his experience and observations of gender identity trending in his student population at the Charlton School. Between 2016 and 2020, the all-girls school experienced a dramatic increase in students questioning their gender identity. Following the advice of experts, the school implemented an affirmation policy, leaving parents feeling pressured and triggering an obvious social contagion amongst the student population. Alex noticed that the focus on gender issues was overshadowing the real problems these students faced, and it was not benefiting them. He shares his reflections on the school getting caught up in gender-related matters, while the root issues of students' mental health were being overlooked. This led him to team up with Genspect for a different approach, of which he reflects with Sasha & Stella, ultimately resulted in a “culture of desistance” unfolding. His exploration for an alternate approach was not widely embraced by all of his professional colleagues and respected clinical peers, despite his extensive qualifications and proven commitment to supporting wholeness and wellness for his students. We hope this episode offers other professionals and leaders out there, struggling to speak up about their concerns about the negative implications of the affirmative approach, an empowered sense of confidence and comfort in setting the tone for a more flexible, less rigid approach to identity exploration.

The Charlton School is a nonprofit therapeutic learning community providing 24/7 evidence-based clinical support and an onsite New York State Education Department approved high school for young women. Charlton serves young women and families experiencing mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, low self esteem, self-injurious behavior, among others.

Founded in 1895, Charlton serves a 100% voluntary enrolled individualized approach in a non-traditional environment. Charlton provides students with smaller class sizes to support their academic progress, as well as multiple forms of therapy to aid with the improvement of their mental health. Their residential and day students are supported with collaborative treatment plans that include Equine Therapy, Social Emotional Learning, Art Therapy, Psychiatric Nursing Services, Family Therapy, and more on a scenic 275 acre campus located in southern Saratoga County. 

The entire treatment and educational teams remain committed to the integrity of their 360 degree approach to students and their families and its proven success. The school believes in honoring evidence based outcomes as means for measuring the success of its program. And while their numbers are small due to the limited nature of their capacity, their model is designed and proven to thrive on the intimate nature of their individualized, family-focused approach.


Learn more about The Charlton School

A Clinical Guide for Therapists Working with Gender-Questioning Youth 

School Policy: Gender Identity (USA) 

School Policy: Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity (Ireland) 

Brief Guidance For Schools 

Brief Guidance On Social Transition 

If you liked this episode, more episodes you might find interesting:

Gender & Schools | GWL Episode Playlist 

We encourage you to bookmark the playlist for future reference as more episodes are added.

Episode 7 - Collective Collusion 

Episode 96 — Official Launch: Clinical Guide for Therapists Working with Gender-Questioning Youth 

Episode 106 — Detransition Awareness: Beyond Identity & Political Narratives 

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Gender: A Wider Lens
Gender: A Wider Lens
Therapists Stella O’Malley and Sasha Ayad explore diverse perspectives through a psychological lens, fostering open dialogue on gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella. Their work with gender dysphoric clients and unique experiences yield an informed outlook delving into gender's psychological nuances. Interviews with clinicians, academics, transgender individuals, parents, detransitioners, and others touched by gender provide varied insights and intimate inquiry into the taboo yet relevant topic.