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late in life transitions

Almost on a daily basis you will see a news story on the internet about someone who, after many years of marriage, is suddenly transitioning. These stories used to be shocking tabloid fodder but are becoming almost normal as people who have kept a lid on their deep secret for decades finally come out of hiding.

For regular people who have never questioned their gender, these stories make little sense and they scratch their heads and think: there goes another crazy deluded person. Of course they cannot place themselves in the skin of a person with gender dysphoria.

We are so uniquely different aren’t we? Some spouses take the news as a shock but then adjust while others bolt for the nearest divorce lawyer. There are no right answers here and what happens next is rarely in the hands of the transgender person themselves.

I have tended to be critical here of people who just get up and announce that they are a woman and expect everyone to get with the program. But then I can also very much relate to the struggle that goes in the mind of a person with strong gender dysphoria.

The solution will be as unique as the person and the family that they belong to. All human affairs are messy and full of blurry edges.

The more sensationalist stories make the news of course but then so do the more touching and simple ones that sometimes help the public understand that these people have held on and suppressed for so long for a reason: they didn’t ask for this and didn’t want to hurt their family.

Finding a level of happiness that is almost beyond existential is not for everyone and we all make compromises in life in order to make a living or adhere to promises we have made to others. The trick is to be just happy enough to honour who you are as a person and keeping the ship afloat. All in all, not easy an easy balancing act to be sure and for some there is the risk of not transitioning could lead to depression or suicidal thoughts because of a life unlived.

I was reading a study that noted that late life transitions are mostly driven by the thought of running out of time and not living authentically. When people have raised their kids and have enough wealth amassed to be able to weather the storm is when some allow themselves the dignity of fulfilling a life long dream of living as per who they really are.

Nothing wrong with that.

(Left-Right) Anthony Drew, Josie Saunders, Steven Saunders, Blossie Mountjoy (Steven's mother), Ellie Saunders and Freddy Saunders


  1. As a representative of that group who seemed to 'suddenly change', I can confirm that all of those reactions and sometimes ones in the middle (my long-suffering partner) happen. The number of friends who have come out of the closet as supporters has been truly heart-warming. It seems they can tell that they are finally getting to know the real me and they like her.

    Among the triggers for me was the thought of myself attempting to suck in my last breath and being really, really angry at myself for continuing a stupid charade all my life for the benefit of other people, most of them people whose opinions really do not matter.
    Quite as you suggest Joanna.

  2. I put of any thoughts of being able to transition because of the assumed repercussions on my partner's career. Seems that I lost several decades of an authentic life for nothing. Everyone prefers the real me to the quiet gloomy previous version.

    Double guessing the reactions of others is a pointless exercise, only if you go for it will you ever know...

    1. Coline the hardest aspect of all this is whether we will be accepted as we truly are by those we love. We have hidden away for so long that we fear losing them. I am glad you had the courage to do what was required for your happiness.

      Did those repercussions actually transpire?

    2. Nothing that I feared ever came to pass, quite the opposite, women have become closer as have many men. Some close family seem the least happy with their lives being disrupted but have all melted with time... I have no regrets about making my choice just about how much I wasted overthinking the problem.

    3. That is great to hear and ultimately its your life and no one else's. As transgender people we tend to overthink way too much.

  3. I think it takes time and circumstances to be right before people transition. Sadly for some people this time never comes. These days society is far more accepting than it was even just 10 years ago. My husband is 44 and at the beginning of her transition and I just find it so sad that it has taken so long for her to feel ready to do this despite the rollercoaster ride that got us to where we are. I also feel so lucky that she is here to do this and overcame the suicidal thoughts when she was confused and alone and that we met and are together forever.

    I have a friend who is transitioning at 57 and although her work colleagues are being ok (it has only been a couple of months of being full time) behind her back they are all sniping about why bother at her age! Typical uneducated misunderstandings!

    1. Most people don't understand that the pressure builds and builds and then the dam breaks. Because they have never experienced gender dysphoria themselves they see it as a selective choice rather than a necessity. Most of us put off for years until we can bear it no longer but I also believe you can manage without transitioning although it is not easy.

      each case is unique and has its own very particular circumstances

    2. Those who ever become visible in real life or just online let alone take advantage of the available hormone and surgical help are just a very small proportion of those of us affected.

      That leads to the obvious conclusion that most "manage" without transitioning. What is scary is what "managing" actually entails and why is the highest incidence by far of cases of suicide come from known transsexauls and what are the actual statistics knowing as we do that most never admit to their problem.

      Having lived for half a century thinking that suicide could be my only way out and keeping well laid plans close to hand I know the depths of misery which can be experienced whilst we do our best to hide all problems and worry about how dealing with those problems might inconvenience others.

      The barriers we need to deal with have been getting smaller more rapidly than I ever imagined possible. I have been fortunate to experience some of life which most of the population just takes for granted. The contrast with that old cloistered life is greater than I ever imagined...

    3. I am very glad for you Coline and I know it must not have been easy. Yes the barriers are getting smaller almost daily and those of us who continue to manage without transitioning have more options than ever. Never thought we'd get this far in my lifetime.


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