en English

 

I was recently sitting around a table at work with two colleagues, when a young student looked over at us and said:

Wow, do you know that in a few years your combined age will be 200?

He was a little out; our combined age is currently 184, but still… Naturally, we smiled and swiftly changed the subject.

This incident got me thinking about age and how different life would have been, had I been able to transition when I was young.

Of course growing up in the 1960s, this would not have been possible. Today, despite the struggles to improve healthcare for young trans people, there is at least a level of awareness that means they are able to address their situation, talk about it and with a lot of understanding and help, live authentically.

Something of which I could have only dreamed.

The struggles faced by younger people are entirely different to those faced by those who transition later in life. The hurdles they have to jump through to prove that they are of sound mind, the barriers which are put in place to delay access to treatment ‘just in case’, do not affect me. As a grown up, I am free to choose my own path, it is generally accepted that I know my own mind and that if I say I am trans, then I am. So does that mean we have an easier ride?

Transitioning in older age is far from easy; from the baggage that comes with a life already half-lived, to navigating existing relationships. Sadly, I see too many relationships fail when a long-term partner comes out as trans. I am lucky, I am married to a woman who sees me for who I am deep down and not my outward appearance. Despite my happy situation I am in the minority.

Of course, those with a long-term partner don’t have to go down the dating route that younger people have to, so perhaps that’s one positive to transitioning in older age. I shudder at the thought of some of my older friends who now find themselves back in the dating game and dealing with transition at the same time – double whammy.

Family is a hurdle for both younger and older transitioner. Yes, family planning may be behind me, which is a relief, but reinventing myself within my wider family unit – who knew me long before I transitioned – is not without its challenges. Decisions around who to tell and how to tell them, to whether I should bother at all, have kept me awake at night. I don’t suppose this is any easier for younger transitioners, but with their lives ahead of them, perhaps it is easier for those with more progressive families to be accepted and maybe even embraced for who they are.

I love seeing before and after transition photos of the young. Seeing an unhappy teen transform into a radiant man or woman is truly inspirational. I recently saw a video of a man going out topless for the first time at the park, after top surgery. He was so happy I almost cried for him. Sadly, reality for the older body is somewhat different.

No amount of hormones or exercise will ever get my body into the shape I have always dreamed have always of. Only major surgery would ever get me to post a public before and after photo, unless it’s for one of those “failure” videos on YouTube. But I guess that has nothing to do with transitioning and everything to do with gravity and the ravages of time!

Of course, I am not that shallow, and looks aren’t everything; emotional wellbeing is paramount. I try and keep track of how I am feeling and how it relates to my hormone levels. Usually though, at some point I burst into tears and eat cake or my favourite chocolate-covered coffee beans.

One of the biggest hurdles facing the older transitioner is one of style. When you are young there is an expectation that you will try out clothing, make-up, and hair and that you will have some failures. Nobody really cares if a younger person’s sense of style is not perfect – we put it down to “being young”. Just think back to what you wore as a teenager – e.g. Bay City Rollers (look it up if you are not of my generation).

When you are older, however, there is an expectation to have the right look straight out of the box. Well of course this does not happen. In the space of the last year, since getting serious about transitioning, I have gone through many styles, all the way from slutty to frumpy, to what I hope is now “classical”. My makeup which started off like Polyfilla has gradually reduced to what I hope is a more subtle look. Another win for youth.

As for hair removal, I shave, epilate and IPL and still some of it is there. Next step is electrolysis if I can find the time. And don’t get me started on my head hair… All of this could have been avoided if I had been able to have had hormone treatment pre-puberty. The problem was that when I grew up I had no idea what a trans person really was, all I knew was that I was different. Times have thankfully moved on.

In case it isn’t apparent, in truth, I am somewhat envious of those who have their lives ahead of them, who might be lucky enough to come from a supportive family, who might get access to the hormones they need in time to be able to live their lives authentically from the start, without having to pretend. I know it is a difficult journey for anyone to have to make but I can’t help but think what life would have been like for me, had I been able to live as I had wanted.

Going through puberty for the second time is no fun at all. I didn’t really suffer much the first time around – sometimes I think because my body kind of gave up and realised turning me into a “real man” was pointless. I never had acne and never got a lot of body hair. But this time, I think I am being made to suffer unnecessarily – which does give me some sympathy for those approaching puberty for the first time (a win for the oldies!).

With all these roadblocks one may wonder why any of us older transitioners bother. Surely it’s too late? Why don’t we just accept our fate and live in the body we were assigned at birth? We got this far…

I can only say why I continue to transition. For me it’s simple; I have no choice. It’s not to improve my lifestyle, to try something new or even to try being a woman. I am and always have been me, Samantha Jane, the woman in the picture. It’s just that now you can actually meet her in person – I just wish you could have done so a long time ago.

 

Author:

Sammi Smith, is a scientist and GenderGP community member.