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What does it mean to be identity-affirming?

By Tom Fiebig, Wednesday 17th April 2024 

3 minute read

About the author: I am a neurotypical, white cis-gender male social work student working on completing his Masters of Social Work (Qualifying) degree on Wurrunderji Woi Wurrung Land. I’ve completed my first field placement at My Right 2 Voice, a specialist disability services provider, and I am currently completing my second (and final) placement at TIF. I am grateful to be working alongside and learning from/with disabled and neurodivergent people both professionally and personally. I look forward to a world without ableism, discrimination, and oppression.

Identity-affirming means affirming, validating, and celebrating your identity or multiple identities.

This can mean…

  • Recognising that there are multiple dimensions of your experience and that these interact to shape your identity/identities and experiences of oppression by using an intersectional lens.

  • Committing to holding unconditional positive regard for you, irrespective of our own background, assumptions, values, and beliefs

  • Providing a safe and confidential space for you with open and welcoming supports

  • A commitment to working towards inclusion at every level of the organisation

  • Using language that is consistent with your self-understanding, identity, and preferences.

  • Avoiding assumptions based on our perception, your presentation or identity.

  • Supporting you to identify and draw on your strengths.

  • Standing in partnership to identify and challenge injustices and oppression

Neurodiversity-affirming means

  • Acknowledging neurodivergence as part of human neurodiversity and celebrating neurodivergent traits and characteristics.

  • Recognising and learning to work with a range of characteristics and traits.

  • Understanding the impacts of intersectional oppressions and difficulties

  • Taking the time to understand your needs and centring them in our work.

  • Understanding that everyone has different needs and accommodations, not just neurodivergent people.

  • Removing neuro-normative standards and expectations

  • Recognising ableism, neuro-normativity, and the prevalence of trauma and distress amongst neurodivergent communities

Neurodiversity affirming therapy does not involve

  • The therapist assuming what your needs are based on your diagnosis/diagnoses.

  • Promoting masking.

  • Trying to eliminate stimming behaviours.

  • Aiming to “cure” neurodivergent behaviours or promote conformity to societal standards

LGBTIAQASBP+ affirming means

  • Understanding, acknowledging, respecting, and celebrating the plethora of gender identities, sexual orientations, or sexualities

  • Supporting identity development and assisting you to easefully navigate living authentically in society at your own time and pace.

  • Understand sexuality and gender identity as a multidimensional spectrum.

  • Recognising homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism, cissexism*, endonormativity** and the prevalence of trauma and distress amongst queer communities.

* Cissexism occurs when it is assumed that a person's internal sense of gender matches socially constructed binary ideas of 'male' and 'female', which is the case for cis-gender people. It is assumes cis-gender is the norm and is superior to other forms of gender identities. This is oppressive and invalidates people's rights to self-determination and self-identification.
** Endonormativity occurs when it is assumed that a person's physical sex-characteristics (i.e. chromosomes, hormones, genitals, or other anatomy) conforms to socially constructed, binary ideas of 'male' and 'female' bodies. Endonormativity erases the existence of intersex people.

The Iceberg Foundation provides identity-affirming supports in the form of therapeutic counselling, trauma work, psychology, social work, support work and psychosocial recovery coaching.
To find out more, send us an email at or call 0422 468 026.


Other community-led mental health organisations we align with include…

Social media accounts we like:

For more resources and services specific to LGBTIAQP+ forcibly displaced people, refugees, and asylum seekers, see our Manaya Pride Program database.



Argüello, T. (Ed.). (2019). Queer Social Work: Cases for LGBTQ+ Affirmative Practice.

Wallace, B., & Santacruz, E. (2017). LGBT Psychology and Ethnic Minority Perspectives: Intersectionality. In E. Santacruz (Ed.), LGBT Psychology and Mental Health: Emerging Research and Advances. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Yellow Ladybugs. (2023). Supporting Autistic Girls & Gender Diverse Youth. Yellow Ladybugs.

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