Some people feel like they have spent most of their lives living up to the expectations of a gender identity that doesn’t match their authentic selves. Over time the need to live authentically can build until it reaches a point where something must be done.
When a transgender or gender diverse person reaches this catalyst point, when they feel like they can’t go on living like have been, then it might be time to come out.
Coming out as trans as an older adult can involve the same range of intense feelings as coming out at any age. Those feelings might include fear, joy, anxiety, relief, and uncertainty. While there is no right or wrong way to feel, here are some tips for coming out.
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Tips to Come Out as Trans Later in Life
Focus on the future
It’s easy to become bogged down with thoughts of what could have been if times had been different and more accepting when you were younger. But it’s not possible to change the past or what people’s attitudes were back then. Focus instead on the time you still have ahead of you to live as your authentic self.
Focusing on the future also means taking the time to educate yourself about transitioning. Coming out is a deeply personal experience, and the experience varies for everyone. Take the time you need to seek out resources, websites, support groups, books, movies, and professionals that can help with your journey.
There is no one right way to transition and the need or desire for medical or surgical interventions varies and may not even be necessary. For some people, social transition is all that is required.
Find the right medical professionals
If you have questions about gender affirming care, which may include gender affirming hormone treatment and possibly surgery, find a doctor who can walk you through these options and explain the risks, benefits, and effects for someone your age.
Your gender transition is unique and might look very different from others depending on your age and health. Make sure your doctor knows about any underlying conditions you have and your family medical history. Some hormone options may involve greater risks when you’re older.
This tip sheet has questions that can help you find a gender affirming doctor you can trust.
Seek out a support network
Opening up to loved ones about your transition experience and who you really are is a process that often takes time. Don’t feel you have to rush it.
To aid in the process, seek out support groups and online forums for additional support along the way. Search Facebook, Google, and meet-up groups for trans friendly LGBTQIA+ local or virtual groups that are right for you.
It can also be very helpful to find a counselor who can help you with your coming out process. A gender-affirming therapist can also help you as you start coming out to family and friends. If faith is an important part of your life, seek out faith groups that match your values and embrace trans people.
Prepare for conversations with others
It can help 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 conversation 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.
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.
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!
Get the medical care you need
Getting the health care that you need is an important part of coming out at any age. Knowing your rights and what to ask your doctor can help.
Resources for older trans people
Older trans people have unique needs. These resources will help you address them.
- 10 Questions to Ask about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex needs in Residential Aged Care.
- Know Your Rights: Medicare.
- Creating End-of-Life Documents for Trans Individuals: An Advocate’s Guide.
- Transgender Older Adults & Medicare Fraud Prevention.
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.
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