You may have heard the quote, “It’s never too late to be your authentic self.” That is just as true for older adults coming out as transgender or gender diverse as it is for any other part of life. Transition can be difficult at any age — but may be more challenging for older adults.
These tips can help you prepare and work through the process.
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Are You Ever Too Old to Come Out?
Even though you’re never too old to come out, some people may worry that they are. It helps to find a gender-affirming counselor who understands your challenges. A therapist can help you figure out what questions to expect — and how to prepare answers to them.
It’s also important to seek out sources of support beyond your family, friends, coworkers, and others in your life. Some of these people may have trouble adjusting to the changes you’re going through. Find support groups with other older trans adults who can support you.
Tips for Coming Out Later in Life
If you’re transitioning later in life, there are a few tips that can help make the process smoother.
Find gender-affirming medical professionals
Gender-affirming medical professionals are doctors, nurses, therapists, and other healthcare providers who understand and support transgender health. These professionals can help guide you through your options and answer questions about medical transition.
This tip sheet has questions that can help you find a gender-affirming doctor you can trust.
Most gender affirming medical and surgical procedures such as gender affirming hormone therapy or top surgery are similar no matter someone’s age, but there may be additional considerations and complications for older adults depending on your age, health, and family medical history.
Remember that there is no single way to transition and you are not more or less transgender depending on any medical or surgical procedures you may or may not choose to have.
Prepare for conversations with others
It helps to have a plan before you sit down to share your transition with loved ones. Below are some questions to think through on your own, with a trusted friend, or with a therapist to prepare for those conversations:
- What do you want to happen in this conversation?
- What are you afraid might happen?
- Are those desires or fears realistic, or are they very unlikely or outlandish?
- What do you need to happen? To be heard, understood, or accepted?
- What do you want to come out of the conversation?
- How will you respond if the discussion does not go as you hope?
Some people find it’s easier to come out using a letter or social media post. This trans website from Australia has some sample letters and posts you can use as a template.
Be clear about what you need from others
Those who support you will want to know how they can best do so. Be direct about what your chosen name is and what your pronouns are. If they use incorrect pronouns, gently remind them of your correct pronouns while realizing it takes time for some people to adjust.
If you are not sure yet what you need from others, it’s okay to tell them that. Sometimes what you need most is someone to listen without judgment. If so, let them know that listening is the most helpful thing they can do.
Experiment with your gender expression
Try different hairstyles, clothing, make-up, or other variations on your appearance that feel more authentic to you. It’s okay to experiment and it’s ok to ask for help. You may not find the perfect presentation right away. If you can, ask long-time trusted friends who accept who you are for their help and input.
How to Support a Loved One Transitioning Later in Life
If someone you love has come out to you as transgender or gender diverse, the most important need they have is love, care, and support. Here are some tips for showing that you support them and accept them for who they are.
- Use the names and pronouns the person asks you to use.
- If you make a mistake with a name or pronoun, apologize and correct it, try harder, do better, but don’t dwell on it.
- Avoid making assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation, interest in surgical or hormone treatments, or other aspects of their identity.
- Keep an open line of communication with the transgender people in your life so they know they can talk to you.
- Educate yourself about transgender issues and ways to support your transgender loved ones.
- Seek support for yourself if you’re struggling to understand a loved one’s transition. A counselor can help you understand their experience and work through your own feelings.
- Look for ways to advocate for transgender rights and outwardly show your support for them.
- Condemn discrimination, bullying, and prejudice against transgender people. Don’t tolerate it in spaces you have control over.
- Learn about local and state laws that protect transgender people from discrimination and ensure their rights.
- Avoid asking why someone is transgender or gender diverse. It is their identity, and asking them why suggests you don’t accept them. People who aren’t transgender are never asked why they are the gender they are.
Resources for Coming Out as Trans Later in Life
There are a wide range of resources for coming out as trans later in life. These are a place to start. The following websites have extensive resources to help trans people, their healthcare providers, and their friends and family.
- The National Resource Center on LGBTQ Aging.
- The National Center for Transgender Equality.
- FORGE Transgender Aging Network.
Resources for finding services and protecting your rights
- 10 trans questions to ask a doctor.
- 10 Questions to Ask about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex needs in Residential Aged Care.
- Transgender Rights Toolkit: A Legal Guide For Trans People and Their Advocates.
- Know Your Rights: Medicare.
- Creating End-of-Life Documents for Trans Individuals: An Advocate’s Guide.
- Transgender Older Adults & Medicare Fraud Prevention.
- Health Care Rights and Transgender People.
- Fear, Discrimination, and Abuse: Transgender Elders and The Perils of Long-Term Care.
- Veterans Health Administration Transgender Healthcare Directive.
- State by State Guide to Laws that Prohibit Discrimination Against Transgender People.
Read others’ stories
It can help to read the stories and experiences of others who have come out as trans as older adults. Here are some stories to read:
- ‘Age has nothing to do with it’: how it feels to transition later in life.
- Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Older LGBT Adults, Ages 45-75.
- Trans Aging: We’re Still Here!
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