In recognition of Transgender Awareness Week, SAGE and the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging will be highlighting one resource a day until Friday, November 20th which is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Today's resource is actually a first-person account from Cici Kyttten, on what it's like to age as a male to female trans person.
As a maturing M2F trans person who is maturing much too rapidly for my own taste, I find myself facing a whole new set of personal issues that I hadn’t considered before. Superficial issues like physical appearance and body image come immediately to mind. These are the same kinds of issues that aging women have faced for generations.
And those issues are important. Most of us take great pride in our appearance. After all, we’ve spent a lifetime obsessing over it. At first hiding our femme sides, then cultivating them, and then finetuning them as we progressed. So when we see the fruits of all that effort slipping away, it hurts.
The whole aging process can be especially discouraging to those who came into this world later in life. We missed all the young years. The fun years. The skinny years! Consequently, many of us have been fighting the impacts of aging since we started dressing.
But sagging bodies and laugh lines may be the least of our problems.There are a whole host of other issues -- including health concerns, health care, retirement, personal finances, and living accommodations -- that all aging individuals face but become more complicated because we are trans.
I recently had a rather frank conversation with my doctor about the negative impact that wearing high heels might have on my arthritic knees. Obviously, this is not a conversation my doctor would normally expect to have with a 50-something American male. But, for me, it was instructive. It was a conversation that needed to happen. Unfortunately, at this point in our society, most trans people aren’t comfortable admitting their trans nature to their doctor or other health professionals. And that lack of communication can hinder proper health care -- particularly in matters much more critical than arthritis.
Unemployment and underemployment are rampant in the trans community. This can have a devastating impact on our ability to plan for the future and save for retirement. Even those who have planned appropriately may find themselves changing career paths as they transition or become more out about their trans nature. Changing careers -- and quite often reducing one’s income in the process -- can have a detrimental effect on benefits and investment strategies.
Aging can be even more complex for those who have transitioned to living full time. One must be mindful of -- and prepared to face -- challenges related to identity issues, particularly with regard to end-of-life documents, Medicare, access to health care, monitoring of medications associated with transition, and fair housing practices.
But probably the most daunting aspect of aging for most trans people is the prospect of growing old alone. Perhaps we’ve alienated or been ostracized by loved ones by coming out. Perhaps we’ve lost touch with loved ones due to feelings of shame or embarrassment. Or maybe we’ve simply chosen to live single and free of family responsibilities -- and therefore now find ourselves aging with no blood relatives in our lives.
Regardless of the reason, many of us are growing old alone. A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of SAGE, indicates that LGBT individuals are more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to live alone and experience diminishing support networks. One in three LGBT elders is concerned about “being lonely and growing old alone.”
And I’m one of them.
I have a great network of friends. Over the years they’ve provided me with the support and confidence I’ve needed to lead a fairly open, productive and fulfilling trans life. But friends are not traditionally the people we turn to take care of us as we age. Blood connections and marital bonds take precedence. Sometimes for legal reasons. Sometimes for personal reasons.
Fortunately, there is cause for hope. Just as LGBT support services increased around the country as the LGBT communities emerged from their respective closets, services for LGBT elders are now increasing as those communities mature.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported on the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s first “Senior Prom” - for LGBT couples over 50 years of age. And Stonewall Gardens opened an assisted-living property offering resort-style accommodations, a full-time licensed nurse, and a 24-hour professional care staff -- the first complex of its kind in the Palm Springs, CA area. Hopefully, trans-specific programs, events, and institutions will follow these LGBT models.
My research for this article turned up a fairly extensive amount of resources devoted to LGBT elder issues. One great place to start is your local LGBT Center. SAGE’s Natinoal Resource Center on LGBT Aging also has an excellent list of online resources related to aging. Of particular interest is their publication, Improving the Lives of Transgender Older Adults: Recommendations for Policy and Practice -- published in conjunction with the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Growing old is something we all must face. And the trans population faces very real and distinct challenges. But as more of us come out and advocate for equal services, we now have a better chance to grow old gracefully -- with better access to housing, health care, and emotional support.
Cici Kyttten is one of the most prolific writers today in relation to transgender (M2F) lifestyle topics. She lives on the West Coast (USA), and spends her time between LA and Las Vegas. She has a dedicated following of avid fans on her Blog . Cici’s Articles are meant to inspire and inform those who are new to the community as well create provocative dialogue with seasoned Trans Girls. Cici wrote this article on behalf of Suddenly Fem, an exclusive fashion line designing career-wear to club wear for the transgender M2F and crossdressing community. They have been innovating fashions and accessories for over 20 years and in 2013, created a community outreach program in which they help to serve the trans community with information, donations and financial support.