Transitioning - Later in life

How do I know if I’m trans? 

Being transgender (or trans) means that you feel like your gender is different than the sex given (or assigned) to you at birth.

This could mean that someone was assigned female at birth, but feel that their gender identity is actually male, neither male nor female, or a combination of the two. 

Later in life, many people describe having felt that they were born in the wrong body, that society when they were younger forced them to live in a binary gender role (male or female), or that they had never been able to express themselves because gender identity was not talked about, or was sexualised as a fetish.

For some people, a change in life circumstances, such as retirement, is what provides the first opportunity for them to explore their gender identity and take steps to begin their transition. Others feel that they have built confidence from seeing and hearing more about gender identity in popular culture; and recognising themselves in how others identify.

There is no specific way to know that you’re trans, but some people might feel:

  • Uncomfortable being referred to as a male/female, or when a wrong pronoun is used (e.g. he/she)

  • That their outside appearance  doesn’t match who they feel they are on the inside

  • A strong desire to be rid of, or upset by functions of their body (e.g. breasts, facial hair, change in body shape, menopause, erections etc.)

It’s important to remember, regardless of your age or your life experiences, everyone is different. It’s never too late, and you’re never too old to start your transition. Transitioning can make you feel more ‘yourself’ and bring feelings of happiness, relief and self-acceptance at any age.

 

 

What does it mean to transition? 

Transition is the process of making changes which allow you to be recognised in your true gender identity.

Transitioning is different for everyone. For some people, it will happen quite quickly, for others it may take years.

The process usually starts with a social transition, and for some people, may later involve medical transitioning.

Social transitioning may include:

  • Telling your friends and family that you’re trans (this could also include your workplace or social clubs)

  • Changing your name (this doesn’t have to be a legal change)

  • Letting people know your pronouns (she/her, he/him, they/them)

  • Changing your appearance (e.g. clothing, hair, make up)

  • Using facilities (e.g. toilets, changing rooms) which match your gender identity

Medical transition may include:

  • Voice or speech and language therapy where a person would like to achieve a tone of voice more typical of their true gender identity

  • Hormone therapy (to stop/create gendered characteristics such as breasts/body hair)

  • “Top surgery” (surgery to change chest/breast appearance)

  • “Bottom surgery” (surgery to alter genitals)

  • Other surgeries to change physical appearance


Medical transition is still possible later in life; however a medical professional will need to discuss your health with you personally. Your medical history may have an impact on options available. Things like high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems can mean that some procedures or hormones carry higher risk, if this is the case; a gender identity specialist will discuss all of your options with you.

Does everyone who is transgender decide to have surgery?

Everyone is different, and although some trans people might have surgery, others might not. Someone doesn’t need to have surgery to live their life as the gender they identify as.

I’ve decided I want to start my transition – where do I start?


For social transitioning…
 

  • Tell someone in your life who is accepting and someone you feel comfortable talking to. This might be a partner or spouse, family member, friend or colleague
     

  • If you have a partner, you may need to have conversations about the future of your relationship. Whether you stay together, separate or how transition may change things is personal to you; but hearing others’ experiences can be beneficial, social groups, blogs and podcasts can be a great resource.
     

  • Speak to someone at your workplace about any changes you’d like to make (e.g. name/pronouns/uniform/facilities you use). They may need to ask you questions, but should never treat you badly because you are transitioning
     

  • Express yourself! Now’s the time to try something new if you feel like it; changing your clothes and hair are easy ways to start. There are lots of tutorials online about everything from make-up to tucking and binding. 
     

  • Find out if your workplace has an LGBT+ society, or what social/support groups there are in your local area 

If you have children or grandchildren, social transition may also include :

  • A conversation about you will be called. Some people are happy to still be known as mum, dad, grandma or grandad; where others prefer to think of something new together.
     

  • Revisiting the topic of gender identity frequently. It can take time for your family to build up an understanding of gender identity, and often your family will have new questions as your transition progresses. If there are younger children in the family, you might also find that you will continue to have conversations for many years as they grow up; this could also include helping them learn about the concept of their own gender identity.
     

  • Some people choose to visit a counsellor or therapist as a family to discuss the changes that will be happening, and allow everyone to talk openly. It can also be good to make contact with a social/support group for trans parents and grandparents or children with trans parents and grandparents.

 

Medical transitioning...
 

  • Visit your GP and ask to be referred to a gender dysphoria clinic. You may have to wait some time for a referral for an assessment at a clinic because these services can be very busy.
     

  • You don’t need an assessment before being referred to a gender dysphoria clinic; but your GP may offer to refer to you another service, or signpost you to groups who can support you whilst you wait for an appointment.
     

  • It is strongly advised not to buy hormones or medication online, or take medication meant for somebody else. This can seriously damage your health.
     

  • If you’re considering surgery, you will need to have socially transitioned for at least a year before a gender dysphoria clinic will be able to refer you to a surgeon. For some procedures you will need to take cross-sex hormones before they can be done.


 

Legal transitioning…
 

Useful links for further reading

The Gender Identity Clinic - gic.nhs.uk

Gender GP - gendergp.com

Gendered Intelligence - genderedintelligence.co.uk

All About Transwww.allabouttrans.org.uk

LGBT Stoke is a service provided by the Sexual Health Prevention Team from Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust