June 26, 2019—Through her work at the UF Youth Gender Program, psychologist Anyaliese Hancock-Smith, Ph.D., provides more than just medical care for transgender and gender-nonconforming youth. She serves as an advocate for their rights, helping them navigate not just mental and physical health but social and spiritual well-being.
“LGBTQ+ youth need people who they know will support them and provide safe spaces for them,” she says. “That’s where I come in: to help them understand what their rights are, how to find their voices and how to use those voices.”
Working in tandem with endocrinologists, psychiatrists and patient advocates, Hancock-Smith performs medical readiness evaluations for hormone therapy for young people who wish to transition as well as affirmative psychotherapy, which focuses on affirming one’s gender identity and aiding them in the transition process both medically and socially. A co-founder of the Youth Gender Program, Hancock-Smith also provides consultative and educational services for family members with questions about gender identity development.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself, Hancock-Smith intimately understands many of the issues her patients experience. She feels passionate about serving as a buffer between her patients and the discrimination, harassment and rejection from family members, teachers or peers they commonly face. She says these experiences can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety, thoughts of suicide and other risky behaviors.
To combat these experiences, Hancock-Smith encourages her patients — and the greater community —to actively practice deprogramming.
“Deprogramming involves being conscious of the stereotypical information we get from others and the media, like girls wear pink and boys wear blue. That’s just something arbitrary someone decided for some reason; it’s not reality,” she says.
Hancock-Smith also serves as an advocate for LGBTQ+ youth in Gainesville and beyond as a committee member for the UF LGBTQ+ Presidential Advisory Committee, the LGBTQ+ Child Welfare Task Force and Gainesville Equality Youth. Part of the education and training she provides involves dismantling the notion of a gender binary.
“There’s a spectrum for gender identity. Gender goes way beyond the binary and the boxes people put us in,” she says. “There’s been diversity within the human species since the beginning of time, and that’s what makes the world go ’round. Everybody should celebrate being who they are and learn to love and support each other. There’s room for everyone to be who they are.”
Hancock-Smith, who completed her postdoctoral residency and fellowship in 2015 at the UF College of Medicine department of psychiatry, also serves patients at her own practice in Alachua: Hancock-Smith Pediatric and Behavioral Health, LLC. Her mission is to “promote wellness through empowerment and change.”
“Change takes practice, hard work and time,” she says. “I help patients be the change they want to achieve. As professionals, we have the tools, but the patients are the ones who achieve a healthier state of well-being by utilizing their choices.”
In every patient interaction Hancock-Smith shares, she aims to instill a sense of self-love and acceptance, no matter what the current political climate may look like.
“I encourage my patients to live outside of the boxes people try to put us in. That’s how you learn to accept yourself, evolve and grow. I help them to think, ‘I define me; others don’t define me,’” she says. “I’ll be doing this work as long as I have breath in my body.”