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Do people explore gender transition later in life?

Transitioning at all takes a lot of courage. Transitioning later in life comes with unique challenges and can cause quite the internal conflict. This may make you wonder why people want to come out as trans later in life, seeing as it’s difficult, they’ve lived their whole life as one gender, and it may just seem simpler to finish life without transitioning. If you yourself are trans later in life, is a conundrum of which you are acutely aware. I found a mixture of research, clinical experience from a counselor, and a few anecdotes to back this up and explain this. My hope is to validate the experience of wanting to transition later in life and educate people who may not understand the need to do so.

Vanessa D. Fabbre studied why people decide to transition later in life, and one of the most universal reasons involves the awareness of how much time one has left to live. Knowing there are limited days left to embrace one’s authentic self, experience feeling whole and congruent, and having fully lived life, is at the apex of transition contemplation for many people (Fabbre, 2014). In addition to looking forward, many trans individuals will also look back on their life as time served “doing what they were supposed to do,” living in their assigned gender. Having put up with society’s expectations in the past can add a sense of urgency for trans individuals to transition while they still can (Fabbre, 2014).

An article in The Guardian discussed a few anecdotal stories of “trans baby boomers” coming out as trans later in life. One individual, Ruth Rose, stated, “In some ways it’s like having new hips after being told you would be condemned to arthritis for the rest of your life. You do it, and life begins again.” The whole article tells these stories in a lovely, compassionate light and is a joy to read through. It also ties in some of the confliction and hard decisions that need to be made; it doesn’t gloss over those.

For a more compassionate discussion of the confliction, I turn you to Jessica from MyTransgenderNation, who has a lovely YouTube video discussing transitioning later in life. She takes a very honest approach in discussing some of the difficulties while being careful not to scare anyone away from the idea if that’s the right decision. Dara Hoffman-Fox is a counselor with a great video discussing a lot of the confliction that can come along with this decision of transitioning later in life. My favorite part is when Dara suggests breaking down the importance of the individual things in your life and how you spend your time, seeing how much of it reflects who you really are, and how much of it is disingenuous and something to reconsider. The second part she urges individuals to consider is what it’s been like to repress one’s true gender identity for so many years, and to measure the pain and discomfort associated with that. Examining those two factors separately first is a critical step in being able to eventually merge the two, and make the decision that’s right for the individual.

Jacob Lundy is a Mental Health Student Intern at Cypress Wellness Center. He began pursuing a Bachelor's in Psychology from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and deeply fell in love with therapy when he finally went to therapy himself in his senior year. He has ten years of teaching experience including music, special education, and ESL. He also has three years of experience working as a personal service worker, showing comfort to autistic individuals. He's now pursuing a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Adams State University. To request an appointment, click here to request an appointment.


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