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How has Transforward transformed through the years?

Transforward is a practice founded and led by trans people, though the mission and practices are not exclusive to transgender people. Gender and sexuality are core parts of the human experience that all of us on this planet can relate to. Sexuality is a way of connecting with ourselves and others. Gender diversity across body types is a natural, healthy and joyous part of humanity!

As the founder of Transforward, I hold the belief that exploring gender diversity in relation to the physical body can offer profound insights into the human spirit, highlighting the urgent need to shift our current societal attitudes towards gender and sexuality. The historical mindsets and social norms surrounding gender and sexuality have caused immense harm to individuals, regardless of gender, impacting their emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Therefore, we must undergo a process of transformation or "transitioning" to ensure a more inclusive and supportive society. 

Transforward originally opened in 2019 with the intention of expanding access to trauma-informed and affordable healthcare for transgender people despite income status and background. Throughout the last four years, Transforward has provided services to over 100+ people from across gender and sexual identities. 

Since then, Transforward has transformed into an organization that seeks to provide holistic and empowering frameworks for understanding gender, health and healing that create change and transformation by: 

1 - Providing holistic and trauma-informed therapeutic services for people and families which include humanizing mindsets of gender and sexuality; that are anti-pathologizing and anti-oppressive. We can heal and empower ourselves! Transforward provides tools and space to find your highest, authentic self outside of the negative messages you’ve received or how you’ve been treated throughout your lifetime, no matter how you identify yourself, a man, a woman or transgender. 

2 - Advocating for healthcare systems, structures and language that honors one’s identity, process, bodily autonomy and human diversity across body types.

3 - Offering educational resources and language that empower people and communities by expanding our current understanding of gender, sexuality and the intersection of traumatic experiences including oppression.

4 - Uplifting and honoring the trans experience by spreading awareness of the “embodiment of gender” from a human experience, not exclusively “trans experience”. 

Our bodies are completely right, whole and complete. You are wise and your body is wise, in fact, it is the primary source of health and wholeness. 

We believe no one is born in the wrong body and that there is nothing wrong with you, but rather it is lifetime experiences of social rejection, violence, harm and emotional neglect (feeling unsafe, unheard and unseen in an authentic way of being) that causes distress. A sense of belonging is a human need from birth. 

Negative life experiences that are unprocessed produce a way of being rooted in shame, guilt and fear and thus a sense of being disconnected from one’s self. I define this as “disembodiment.” 

“Disembodiment trauma” is a term I created to reframe the distress of trans people. This term was coined as a direct response to the disempowering language of “Gender dysphoria”, which I know to be a limiting belief. The history of the term “Gender dysphoria” is founded in a problematic history of racism, pathology and harm to gender and sexual diversity. This term continues to be enforced through rigid ways of viewing the human experience across body types. It’s time we embrace new ways of understanding gender diversity, health and trans experiences! 

We believe that as a society, we have a lot to learn from trans people and gender diverse experiences. From them, we learn that our human makeup is beyond the physical body (or what we can see) and more about what we can sense and feel, being in our emotional and spiritual body. 

We define gender as a core part of self, present from birth like a seed. 



Stefan J. Simanovich

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

EMDRIA Certified

Hi, I’m Stefan, and thank you for your interest in Transforward’s mission and services. I am a LCSW, EMDRIA Certified healthcare provider and the founder of Transforward. These of course are just my official credentials. 

Let me tell you more about myself and my journey:

I was born and raised in the rural south in North Carolina in the United States. Through my life experiences, education, travel, work, relationships and healing journey I have found myself as a trans person worthy of living a whole and healthy life. It hasn’t been an easy journey by any means in the world we live in. 

For a significant portion of my life, I struggled to find the words and tools necessary to comprehend an integral aspect of my identity, which encompasses both my gender and sexuality as a transgender man attracted to the opposite gender. I had initially believed that I was supposed to identify as a heterosexual woman, with a vague sense of uncertainty surrounding my future. Thankfully, I have always been very intuitive, curious, compassionate and driven to understand myself and the world around me, no matter how much I was struggling internally or externally. As a matter of fact, I “performed” well to the outside world, and many people around me growing up may have been surprised at how much I was actually struggling internally. 

I am someone who did not know, or was not conscious, of my authentic gender and sexual identity until my early 20s. Looking back, I now know I was living in a fight or flight state,   dissociated from my core self and the world around me. I was totally in “survival mode”. I thought I was too sensitive and too emotional, or in some cases emotionless. I see now that my “core self” or authentic self, was always there, just covered in negative energy from the world around me.

I was told in so many ways subconsciously and consciously throughout my life: “there’s something wrong with you” and that I was “not good enough” in various ways, from family issues and the conservative social mindsets that surrounded me. I grew up in a very religious environment, bombarded with negative messages about gender and sexuality. Ironically, I found community and solace in spiritual spaces as well. I could not process this duality as a young person, though I have been able to find peace and my own spiritual beliefs as an adult. 

The experiences I went through in my life caused me to make unhealthy choices and treat my body in ways that were harmful, and in some cases exacerbated my distress. I certainly felt “disembodied” for many reasons. Trauma is complex, and never related to just one thing. 

For years of my life I struggled with physical, mental and emotional distress that I realized in my adulthood was a result of trauma and my unhealthy or careless choices, not something innately wrong with me from birth. I developed various physical illnesses as a young person that were untreated and mental health diagnoses that were unsatisfying for me. 

The messages about my body, gender, sexuality, how much money or how many resources I had as well as messages about my capabilities and appearance were subconsciously internalized. For many years I lived with a foundation built on shame, guilt, self-blame, a sense of responsibility for the world around me, emotional burdens and fear. I felt alone, empty, misunderstood and it felt unsafe to truly exist. 

My narrative for myself for the longest time was negative and problematic. I couldn’t quite make sense of it all. I wondered why in the world I felt these ways. Maybe it was just me. It was challenging to access the positive and uplifting layers to my whole life and myself in a way that was liberating, freeing and empowering, especially as a trans person. 

As a deeper part of me “awakened” through my experiences, I started to unravel the layers of what it means to heal and find balance, stability and emotional health; what it means to be trans in this world.  Allowing myself to truly face my fears and the “unfinished business” from my past. As related to being transgender, I’d ask myself, how could I not know something so core about me for years of my life? And how could something so true about me feel so wrong? How can I truly be myself in this body? Will I ever be safe to just be myself? What do I need to change physically to be whole? 

When I started my medical and social transition from a perceived woman to a man, I found that the psycho-emotional transition, as I call it, was perhaps the most distressing.  As I began to feel better about my self-image, along came years of unprocessed shame and memories from my past. These memories live in an identity that wasn’t all of me, but one the world knew as a girl, or “Katie.” I struggled socially to “reintegrate” into my social self as my authentic self, someone people were truly getting to know, and some not accepting. 

I felt even more dissociated from myself, confused, distressed and found myself desperate to feel whole. I was frustrated with the difficulty I found in accessing affordable, high quality healthcare. I made some impulsive decisions, and felt a sense of betrayal towards myself and the external world. There was a consistent battle within me of “what do I want versus what is society telling me I need to be? I feel I am a man, but what does it even mean to be a man? What does it mean to have “Gender dysphoria” really?

I felt fragmented internally but regardless, I managed to push forward which I attribute to my faith, self esteem and the community around me. I certainly did not and have not been able to access my healing journey on my own! I’ve had many therapists, mentors, friends and people who have taught me, guided me and created space for all parts of me throughout my entire journey from birth to present. ​

It took some time, but I found acceptance and healing for my entire self. That I was born exactly who I am supposed to be  and that energy does not lie, despite how challenging it once was for me to just accept my life’s journey of being a transgender man. I realized that being transgender is not analogous to “mental illness,” living a distressing life or being an “other.” I stopped wishing I was born someone I am not. I started to lean into the wisdom of my body instead of  embracing a sense of powerlessness. I felt fear towards my own body and mind until I started listening to my heart and my core, not others or society. I knew deep down that my body was mine, and that my body, brain and heart were in fact in alignment as I began embracing my authenticity and whole self, including all those “hard to look at” memories. 

This awakening allowed me space to take a step back and see the true source of my distress; how my experiences and choices have shaped my identity, particularly from a trans perspective. I started leaning into holistic and trauma focused therapy to make sense of my life and recreate my narrative. My symptoms decreased and I started finding balance, outside of a baseline of anxiety and dips into depression or dissociation. 

I really got that adulthood is about starting to take accountability for everything that's happened to me, including how I think of myself.

Throughout my practice and career, I learned very quickly that I was not alone. So many people both adults and children, could relate to me across identities. And I too, saw myself in others. I have witnessed universal patterns both in the trans community and overall human experience. 

I have come to the conclusion that we have to start changing the way we talk about gender and trans people. I came to understand the immense importance of having a deep sense of belonging right from birth, regardless of one's identity.

Throughout my career, I have created frameworks, practices and models that honor one’s process and body as whole and complete, particularly as it relates to gender and sexuality. These are core parts of all of us despite pathology or the oppressive mindsets prevalent in modern society. 

I believe that our bodies do their best to protect us in the face of fear. I did not see men like me, or people like me growing up. A sense of belonging is paramount to living a whole and healthy life, and gender identity is an essential part of belonging in this world. A sense of belonging includes bodily autonomy as well as feeling safe, seen and heard in an authentic way of being. Throughout a significant portion of my existence, I grappled with the paradox of yearning to be acknowledged while simultaneously harboring a profound fear of being authentically seen, a genuine predicament faced by numerous transgender individuals in the modern world. 

It is not my physical body that “created” me or “made me a man”, but it was my heart and mind that shaped my physical embodiment in the physical world. I’ve always been me. The heart drives our life and the choices we make, not our genitals or sex characteristics. As a transgender person, one of the most impactful lessons I've learned is the art of embracing my humanity within a world that has historically objectified, disregarded and marginalized both trans individuals and their bodies.This is not an easy journey, though it can be one of wisdom, joy, love and freedom away from the constraints of gender in this world. 

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A Little About How I Got Here


I attended North Carolina State University, studying Spanish and Psychology and then attended Columbia University School of Social work focusing on School Social Work for my LMSW. During my graduate school years, I had the opportunity to undertake internships in high schools where I focused on acquiring skills in implementing Restorative Justice practices and providing school counseling.


As a school social worker, my work revolved around supporting youth and families in the Bronx, New York City. Additionally, I have gained experience by working in group psychotherapy practices and mental health clinics, where I have had the honor of working with people from diverse backgrounds and identities, including different sexual and gender identities. Moreover, I have also been involved in mental health clinics and practices, engaging with individuals affected by sexual trauma and violence.


  1. EMDR therapy and Integrative Practices: I am EMDRIA certified and I am a consultant-in-training. I strive to allow therapists to use their own intuitive and creative abilities in their practice to hold space for others while simultaneously honoring one’s body and identity. I include parts work or ego state work into my practice that I find it very helpful for those of us from C-PTSD or dissociative histories. 

  2. Embodiment Practices, Energy Medicine and Medical Intuition: These holistic modalities have informed my practice around energy and working directly with the body (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual body) where our emotions live, in order to find balance and harmony.


  1. I teach classes and workshops on the “Embodiment of Gender” from a trauma-informed, holistic approach, expanding language and frameworks that honor gender and sexuality as core/integral parts of the human experience from birth. 

  2. I collaborate with legal entities and attorneys in advocating for people across gender and sexual minorities who are involved in criminal systems. The intention is in providing people access to trauma-informed mental healthcare.

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