I started my transition when I was 35, after having two kids and an established career. Though this certainly added some complexity to my journey, it also gave me experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I think the benefits of later transitions are often overlooked, as people focus on the downsides of aging rather than the benefits.
Gender dysphoria is really hard, and for some, transitioning as early as possible can have dramatic mental health benefits. But for many who don’t have the option or opportunity to transition as a teen, a later life transition is full of unexpected benefits and upsides.
A different kind of beauty
We all want to have the youthful glow and energy of a pretty 20-something girl. And that’s just not possible if you transition later in life. On the other hand, and I hear this a lot, a later transition doesn’t mean you will always look like a man in women’s clothes.
Certainly, aging has its downsides. Once you hit your thirties or fourties, you’ll have to deal with things younger trans women won’t, like male-pattern baldness and a generally slower metabolism. But estrogen has a powerful impact on your body no matter what age you are, and generally, if you’re body transitions well as a twenty-something, you’ll look great transitioning as a forty-something too.
Femininity and youthful appearance are tied in our culture to an unhealthy degree. Many trans women assume that the only way to be a beautiful woman is to look like the pictures of young female models; this is exactly the same negative body image stereotypes that cause cis women and teens so much emotional trauma.
Looking great and feeling great at any age is possible, regardless of when you started your transition.
Coming to terms with yourself, not your gender
Because I transitioned later, I had a couple of decades to spend coming to terms with who I was outside of my gender identity. This made my eventually transition a lot easier, because I had a much better and healthier relationship with myself.
One of the hardest parts of transitioning is how damn awkward it is. Because you have so much to learn and re-learn, you are constantly making mistakes and not meeting your own expectations and desires. If you struggle with self-doubt and insecurity, this can be a really awful process. When I finally did transition, I was able to be much kinder and gentler with myself than when I was in my twenties.
You are not your gender, and affirming your gender identify doesn’t magically solve all your problems. If you transition early, you still have a lifetime of work ahead of you; learning to love yourself, building a family, navigating professional life, and finding how to be happy.
Transitioning later just means you’ve changed up the order in which you can address some of those things, and ultimately make your transition a little easier than it otherwise would have been.
A powerful support network
One of the benefits of getting older is having a strong network of friends and loved ones who you can rely on for support. I can’t imagine going through my transition without these people; my family and friends have been a constant source of support and validation. Certainly, there are those people who fell out of my life after transitioning, but generally my strongest relationships only got stronger.
The thing is, as you get older, you realize that nobody stays the same. We’re all changing all the time, and one of the great joys of life is growing together with the people you love. By the time I was 35, I was a very different person than when I was 20. I think in some ways, this made my gender transition easier for my friends and family; they had already seen me at my best and worst, and this was just a new chapter on my journey.
A sense of perspective
As I said above, gender isn’t everything. It took a lot of years, but finding out how to love myself, regardless of what I looked like on the outside, was key to my eventual transition. And when I finally did transition, I was confident in the things I wanted to keep and the things I wanted to change.
To put it another way, transitioning for me was about making the life I already had better. Through years of work and self-discovery, I was actually happy, even with the body of a man. I had, and have, a loving wife and two great kids. My choice to finally live life as a woman was about finally removing one of the last barriers that was keeping me from truly enjoying and being present for the great things in my life.
If you transitioned later in life, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.