Late transitioners

“Late transitioning” trans women are those who have struggled on to make men of themselves, but in later life transition to female. A beautiful example is in Jennifer Finney Boylan’s article in the NYT: People often ask late transitioners, why now, after all this time? What kind of woman do you think you can be, after missing your girlhood and your adolescence? But those aren’t the questions one should ask.

The question is, how did you manage to go so long? What enabled you to keep carrying your burden in secret, walking around with a shard of glass in your foot, for all those years?

If referring to people as “late transitioners” were only a description, it would be unobjectionable. Some people marry and have children, or do not think transition is possible and go on to build careers in which transition is genuinely impossible. However there is a nasty myth that “true transsexual” or “primary transsexual” women transition in their teens, and are primarily attracted to men; and those of us who transition late, or are attracted to women, are in some way not real transsexual. This interferes with treatment for older trans women, and is a cause of argument within the trans community. Some people want to insist they are true trans, and others are not.

If “Late transitioning” is a way of judging someone, or a way of drawing conclusions from a loveless, judgmental stereotype, it becomes a slur, a way of demonising or rejecting people. If I use it of myself, it is simply a description. I transitioned late according to some people, changing my name and going to work dressed female aged 35.

That is what “reclaiming” means. We decide to treat “queer” as a word which we fit, without seeing it as judgmental. I am proud to be queer. Queer identity is inclusive, and resists the obsessive categorisation of the sexologist. I can reclaim “late transitioning”- the negative connotations have no value, I am a late transitioner and I am a trans woman. Others may insist on the negative connotations, but I may reject them, after which they have a lesser and lesser effect on me until they do not matter at all. Then my example may help others free themselves in the same way, just as the example of others frees me.

Other people seek to control me with their judgment. My answer is to apply my own judgment. I am a person of value.

9 thoughts on “Late transitioners

  1. You most certainly are a person of value, Clare. I’m a late transitioner by any definition. I started at age 60 and am 62 now. Thankfully I haven’t heard anything about my being “less than” for transitioning at my age. I have reflected on what my life might’ve been like had I transitioned earlier. Better? Definitely in some ways. But I don’t think I’d have made it. The load of shame I carried since 4 years old was so so heavy.

    I’m glad to be who I am now. What am I though? A trans woman friend insists she is a woman unequivocally. That doesn’t feel right for me. I’ve been telling people I’m a transgender woman, since that accurately describes my history. Recently I decided that I prefer a “woman with a transgender history.” The word sequence matters to me and, I hope, conveys what is most important: I’m a woman, with quite a past!


      • I agree and I’m open to it! As I think about it now maybe that’s the transition that is most wished for, the point at which I no longer feel a need to add qualifiers to my identity.

        By the way I was thinking the other day about how some services (websites, etc.) have added “transgender female” and “transgender male” as gender selections. I’ve liked and appreciated this but what would be better, IMHO, would be change the other entries to “cisgender male” and “cisgender female” which would, I think, raise the consciousness and understanding of cis folks as well as underscore our validity.


  2. Thank you Clare and Emma for giving time for this. I am 65 and began transition in 2015. I like the concept of a ‘woman with a transgender history’, even if it is a bit of a mouthful. My current preoccupations are with soul and/or self, and memory. The latter, which is substantially male, continues to dance to its own tune whilst the part of me in the moment seeks a quiet place to be. Although the noise levels are often awesome, they can also be tuneful.


  3. Gender should have no bearing on a person’s value, trans or cis. Having said that, I have had a much better sense of self-value since I started my “late transition.” Suppression of my feminine gender identity did not work, and being an “intermittent transitioner” brought on more self-shame than value. Actually, I would describe my own as a “procrastinated transition.” I may have arrived at the party a little beyond what’s considered to be fashionably late, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be the life of the party. In fact, I don’t even look at it as attending a party these days, because this is my party now, and I am the one handing out the invitations.

    I am the hostess, not the trans hostess. It matters not when my party started, only that it’s now in full-swing.

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