“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.