Transitioning Later in Life

I am a 43 year old transgender man. I was 39 years old when I realized I was trans. Looking back there were so many signs but I didn’t understand what they meant. If you haven’t read any of my story yet, might I suggest starting here.

As a trans man, I feel safer and more comfortable in women’s spaces

Four and a half years ago I joined a secret Facebook group that was originally intended for later in life lesbians. This group was started by a woman who came out later in life and quickly discovered that there was very little support for people such as herself. As this group grew, and some of us began to realize that we were in fact transgender, the space became inclusive of all women (cis and trans), non binary AFAB folks and trans men. The commonality of the members was that they came out later in life. Although this group was comprised mostly of women, I always felt like this group was home for me. This would not be the case for a lot of trans men and I’m going to attempt to explain why.

How is being a later in life trans man any different than transitioning as a teenager or young adult?

How is my experience different from other trans men who were either raised as their correct gender or realized their gender as teens or young adults? I birthed 5 babies and miscarried one. I was a mom for 20 years. How many moms do you know who are men? I lived nearly 40 years being seen as a woman. I was raised as a girl with all the gender stereotypes and social conditioning that goes along with that. I got married twice to cisgender straight men as a woman.

I may know what it means to “act” like a girl, but I’ve never understood what it means to “feel” like a girl

Because of how I grew up, being perceived as a girl, with the expectations of how to behave like a girl, I may know what it means to “act” like a girl, but I’ve never understood what it means to “feel” like a girl.

Being a trans man doesn’t erase the years of conditioning and life experiences I’ve had while walking through this world for 40 years being viewed as female. Feeling safe and comfortable in women’s spaces just makes sense for me given the circumstances of my first forty years.

Now compare this to trans men who are raised as the boys they know they are. These boys are being raised with standard societal male conditioning which is completely opposite of how I experienced the world. Even if children are being raised without typical gender stereotypes at home, they are still experiencing these at school, in extracurriculars and in most other areas outside their immediate circle of influence. In my opinion, nobody would consider telling these trans men that they were welcome in women’s spaces because it just wouldn’t make any sense at all.

5 ways parents can help kids avoid gender stereotypes

Men who transitioned as late teenagers or young adults have a mix of experiences with gender conditioning. Many of them also spent their formative years perceived as girls and therefore conditioned with the stereotypes which go along with that. The difference is that they entered into adulthood as the gender they identify with. As they stepped into a life of their own choosing, they did so being seen as their true selves. Being welcomed into spaces meant for women is often invalidating to these trans men.

Now without even factoring in the difference it makes physically transitioning at these different stages which is a post for another day, I hope I’ve shed some light on the contrasting experiences that trans men have in regards to gender and how they may show up in the world as well as the spaces they may feel most comfortable.

2 Replies to “Transitioning Later in Life”

  1. What you said, Dean, makes perfect sense to me. And your line about knowing what it means to “act” like a girl but not understand what it means to “feel” like a girl resonated with me, even as a late in life lesbian. And any space that won’t make you feel welcome as who you are isn’t a place I’d want to be. You’re making a huge difference with what you do and you’ve created an amazing space for us all to feel welcome. Thank you for that. 👊🏻

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