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Dr. Michele Angello: Trans-Elders

| Mar 23, 2007
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I enjoy extremes and this month my blog posting will reflect that! You see, last month I talked about youth, and got absolutely no response from you, so this month I’d like to get your thoughts on trans-elders. 

I was recently asked to participate in a panel discussion on the sexuality issues of baby-boomers. Specifically, I was asked to talk about particular challenges that trans-people over the age of 55 have. There are some obvious issues that come to mind, such as tax laws and pensions that discriminate against same-sex partners (assuming the previously “heterosexual” partner transitions), alienation and isolation issues, coming out to a partner, or even coming out to yourself. A large number of my clients wait until their children are grown and out of the house, or even until their parents die before having the courage to begin to express their gender identity (as a crossdresser or transsexual). So, they find themselves at 60 years old and experimenting with mini-skirts, heels and low-cut blouses. As you can probably imagine, it’s awkward to feel like you’re going through puberty when you’re also a member of AARP!

I also just did an interview for the chapter of a book on queer self-esteem, and the author was interested in the variables that older transgender people experience. Again, I mentioned that it can be difficult to come out, especially if you’re separated/divorced (or never partnered), or your significant other passes away and you begin dating again. At what point is it appropriate to say something like, “Sally, I really enjoy your company and wonder if you’d like to help me shop for a bra in my size?” Seriously, it must be so frightening to gauge the appropriate timing of a conversation of that enormity!

And, how about people who decide that this is the time of their life where they absolutely, positively must transition and not put it off any longer? There are bound to be additional issues to deal with; including, outing to the neighbors, church, significant other, additional family, and at this age, perhaps most importantly, your physician. Yes, the primary care doctor is someone with whom folks over 60 seem to become more familiar with than those of us under the age of eligibility for social security benefits. And, if the doctor you’ve been seeing for years is unaware of your desire to shave your body hair, or your questions of erectile dysfunction (because you tuck everyday and don’t know why you can’t get it up anymore), or why you either have developed breasts (if you’re MtF on hormones) or your clitoris has dramatically enlarged (it’s a FtM thing), you’re probably reluctant to visit him/her for something as seemingly innocuous as an annual physical.

I hear young people tell me it must be nice to be financially privileged and able to transition, and I hear older people tell me they only wish they’d had the opportunity to experience their “true selves” at a younger age. What do you think? Is it easier now, with all the resources, for youth to come out, or might it still simplify things once you have a savings and a stable network to come out later in life?

As always, I’d love to hear your take on this on TG Forum, but if you’d prefer to touch base with me privately, please do so at [email protected]


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Category: Transgender Body & Soul

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About the Author ()

Michele Angello, Ph.D. is a clinical sexologist with offices in Wayne and Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Dr. Angello works with clients to help them reframe feelings of guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment, and even hatred around sexuality, and encourage feelings of acceptance, responsibility, joy, and sharing. She specializes in issues around gender and sexual orientation.

Comments (1)

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  1. says:

    If you are reluctant to face everybody that must know for one reason or another, folks like your physician, you are probably not ready to “transition”. There is just no way around it and if you find yourself red faced, embarrased about any part of the process, it probably isn’t right for you.

    Why would you want to do something with your life that you are ashamed of?

    Financially privileged?? HAHAHAHA. It’s called HARD WORK.

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