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Aging in Transgender People: An Annotated Bibliography

The experiences of transgender people are sorely lacking in the literature on aging and the life course. Research on older populations rarely account for gay and lesbian people, let alone those that are transgender. To complicate this issue further, older people themselves rarely identify as transgender because this term has only recently entered the mainstream discourse on queer experiences. Consequently, it can be challenging to provide adequate services for the gender-different elderly. The following annotated bibliography introduces readers to materials available that relate to the topic of transgender experiences with aging.

The bibliography is grouped into five interrelated themes. The first theme deals with theory and history. This section provides readers with a background and context for understanding transgender experiences. The next theme contains autobiographies and other literature related to the process of transitioning from one gender to another. These stories provide insight into the aging experience as affected by hormones and surgery, and offer readers an intimate and personal perspective from the point of view of transgender people themselves. After reflections on the lives of transpeople, the following section deals with transgender health issues. This section highlights the primary health concerns that affect transpeople as they age. Health issues inform the subsequent section that describes the broader aging issues affecting transpeople. It serves to briefly acquaint readers with the specific issues affecting older transgender people. The final section includes references that deal with the political and social aspects of transgender aging. These references address policy measures and advocacy on the behalf of transgender people. In this section, readers will encounter issues like elder abuse, discrimination, relationships, and building community. This final section serves to tie all the issues together, forming a comprehensive understanding of the variety of issues that affect aging transpeople.

These themed sections should not be used in isolation from each other. Rather, they are meant to provide an integrated understanding of the topic. While these references deal with transgender experiences of aging, they are not inclusive of every experience. Notably lacking are the experiences of older transgender people of color and those from non-Western cultures. There is also a lack of information on issues related to disability, sexuality, leisure, long-term care, and assisted living. This bibliography provides a framework for an initial understanding of the lives of older transpeople. Hopefully, others interested in the field will expand upon the issues presented here.

Theory and History

In order to understand transgender experiences with aging, it is important to first become familiar with transgender history and theories on gender. Through theory and history, one is able to place discussions on transgender aging in a broader context. The following references briefly introduce readers to larger issues affecting transgender people.

Butler, Judith. 2001. “Doing Justice to Someone— Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transsexuality.” GLQ-A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 7:621-36.

Butler is recognized as a leader in postmodern and poststructuralist gender theory. Her perspective on transgender experiences presents gender as a social construction. This article is not as dense as some of her other work, but tends to look at trans issues in an impersonal manner. It is of interest to readers seeking to become familiar with scholarly takes on transgender experiences.

Feinberg, Leslie. 1996. Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul. Boston: Beacon Press.

Feinberg details a comprehensive and cross-cultural history of transgender people. This book is extremely informative and written in an enlightening manner. She makes use of pictures and photographs throughout the text. This is an essential and pioneering book for anyone interested in understanding transgender history.

Hausman, Bernice L. 2001. “Recent Transgender Theory.” Feminist Studies 27:465-91.

Hausman reviews the predominant theoretical discussions on transgender experiences and discusses its overlaps with queer and feminist theories. This is a thorough examination of available theories that frame the transgender discourse and provides readers with a good introduction. It is most useful if scholarly connections are of interest.

Autobiographies and Transitioning

An important aspect of the transgender aging experience is the actual transition from one gender to another. Many transitioning individuals experience what has been described as a second puberty period, coming out process, or coming of age experience. Through the examination of transpeople’s personal stories, readers are able to understand and relate to transgender experiences through an intimate lens.

Davis, Kate. 2000. Southern Comfort. New York: Q-Ball Productions.

This documentary film chronicles the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual living in the rural South. His relationships with family, friends, and partner are highlighted. Viewers witness his battle with cancer and the obstacles he faces in accessing health care. It is a touching and insightful look at the struggles endured in Eads’ last years. The film offers audiences access into one man’s personal story.

Davis, Sharon. 1985. A Finer Specimen of Womanhood: A Transsexual Speaks Out. New York: Vantage.

The author, an African American transsexual woman, offers an account of her transition and details her consequent role in the public spotlight. The book offers readers a personal look into her life, and is one of the few books highlighting the story of a transwoman of color.

Hunt, Nancy. 1978. Mirror Image: The Odyssey of a Male-to-Female Transsexual. New York: Holt, Rinehart Winston.

This book describes how one person transitioned from a crossdressing man into a transsexual woman. It highlights how this transition affected her relationship with a woman partner over time, an aspect of transitioning relevant to many people who partner with transwomen.

Martino, Mario. 1977. Emergence: A Transsexual Autobiography. New York: Crown Publishers.

This book describes one of the first accounts of a female-to-male transsexual. It provides insight into the aging process of one person when instances like this were presumed to be rare.

Rudd, P. 1990. Crossdressing with Dignity: The Case for Transcending Gender Lines. Katy, TX: PM Publishers.

This book’s insights stem from research on a large number of crossdressers. It chronicles how men become more comfortable with their gender expression as they age. It also embraces a perspective of gender fluidity. It is useful for service providers and analysts interested in how research informs professional practice.

Transgender Health

Historically, transgender experiences have been excluded and misrepresented from research on health. For example, no studies have examined the long-term effects of hormone use, nor have any attempted to describe transgender experiences with sexual health. This section contains references that highlight the available information related to transgender health.

Cascio, Justin. 2001. “Cancer Risks in the Trans Community.” Retrieved November 16, 2002.

This article mostly describes cancer risks for transwomen and recommendations for mammography. Suggestions for age-appropriate cancer screenings are given. Although short in length, the article highlights a neglected issue in the transgender aging population. Every transwoman undergoing hormone therapy should read this.

Lombardi, Emilia L. and G. van Servellen. 2000. “Building Culturally Sensitive Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Programs for Transgendered Populations.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 19:291-96.

This article focuses exclusively on substance problems in the transgender community. The authors advocate for transgender inclusion in substance abuse treatment programs. They suggest ways for providers to become more sensitive and inclusive of transgender clients. It is a useful guide for providers that service transgender clients in diverse settings.

Lombardi, Emilia. 2001. “Enhancing Transgender Health Care.” American Journal of Public Health 91:869-73.

This article serves to encourage providers and researchers to understand the specific needs of transgender clients. It discusses obstacles transpeople have been confronted with in accessing health services and provides suggestions for improvement. The author effectively and clearly communicates the issue, providing a catalyst for change within the professional field.

Tully, Brian. 1992. Accounting for Transsexualism and Transhomosexuality: The Gender Identity Careers of Over 200 Men and Women Who Have Petitioned for Surgical Reassignment. London: Whiting and Birch.

This book examines the lives of transsexuals from a variety of genders, classes, and ages. It discusses obstacles encountered by transpeople in accessing health services related to transitioning. It is useful for transpeople interested in avoiding common mistakes in dealing with health systems.

Wilkerson, George J. (aka Bobbi Williams). 2001. “What We Don’t Know: The Unaddressed Health Concerns of the Transgendered.” Retrieved November 16, 2002.

Wilkerson includes issues of aging transpeople within a larger context of transgender health issues. This inclusion places aging issues on equal par with other more visible health concerns for this community. The article provides a comprehensive summary of health issues that affect the transgender community.

Aging Issues for Older Transpeople

Within the body of knowledge on transgender experiences, there is a lack of information about aging and the life course. The following references describe an underrepresented faction of the transgender community, and pinpoint an important aspect of this bibliography.

Bockting, Walter O. and Charles Cesaretti. 2001. “Spirituality, Transgender Identity, and Coming Out.” Journal of Sex Education and Therapy 26:291-301.

This article begins to describe the topic of transgender spiritualities. For such an intimate subject, it tends to focus on the more impersonal aspects of transgender experiences, but is useful for transpeople interested in exploring accessible spiritual paths.

Cahill, Sean and Ken South. 2002. “Policy Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Retirement.” Generations 26:49-54.

This article is a groundbreaking peek into the issues faced by LGBT people in retirement. It provides a framework for understanding the unique needs of older LGBT people. Transgender issues are discussed, but the majority of information pertains to lesbians and gays.

Cascio, Justin. 2002. “Growing Older and Being Trans.” Retrieved November 16, 2002.

Based on a workshop given at the True Spirit Conference, the author initiates discussion with the presenters to elaborate on concerns specific to older transpeople. The article discusses medical and legal issues, developing community, working for change, and viewing aging positively. The interview-type format places the voices of older transpeople into the forefront.

Witten, Tarynn M. and Loree Cook-Daniels. 1999. “Transgender Aging: Introduction to an Emerging Field.” Gerontologist 39:79-81.

This piece introduces readers within the field of gerontology to issues of transgender aging. The study discussed was presented to the Gerontological Society of America and is intended to spark interest on transgender experiences within the discipline. 2000-02. Retrieved November 16, 2002.

It is necessary to reference this entire website because it contains so much relevant material concerning transgender experiences with aging. Some exceptional pieces are described below.

Loree Cook-Daniels’ contributions permeate this website. In “Growing Old Transgendered,” she briefly introduces readers to the issues facing older transgender people. She describes activism within the LGBT community in “Ageism.” “Elder Abuse” is an abbreviated version of a larger report and describes occurrences of violence against the elderly. It is written in an informal and accessible manner. “Lesbian, Gay Male, Bisexual and Transgendered Elders: Elder Abuse and Neglect Issues” is an exceptional article that contextualizes elder abuse in the LGBT communities. Concerning transgendered elders, providers are cautioned to be sensitive, noting that the term “transgender” is relatively new and that many older people will not identify as such. The author discusses issues around legal realities, intimate relationships, and provider-client relationships. Cook-Daniels discusses issued related to SOFFAs (significant others, family, friends, and allies) as well. In “FTM Post Mortem,” this personal story describes the transphobic situations encountered by a partner of an FtM transsexual after he died. It provides a human look into the reality of transgender discrimination as it affects partners. “Transgender Elders and SOFFAs: A Primer for Service Providers and Advocates” is a comprehensive and informative article that defines and explains terms used in describing the transgender population. It details issues of transitioning in later life, health concerns for aging populations, legal and economic issues, and issues faced by SOFFAs. The intended audiences are service providers and policy-makers, and the article succeeds in clearly outlining the pressing concerns of transgender elders.

Other articles of interest include Joseph M. Schreiber’s “Slow Learner,” a story of an FtM who transitioned within a marriage to a man. This article provides an interesting account of a perspective rarely vocalized in the FtM community. Shannon Minter provides a brief summary of legal issues transgender people may face concerning marriage in “Transgender Elders and Marriage: The Importance of Legal Planning.” This article specifically focuses on how these issues pertain to older transpeople. Any transgender people interested in learning about how transitioning affects marriage privileges should read this article.

Making It Political

The following articles put transgender aging issues in a broader context of advocacy and political activism. They highlight some of the specific issues confronted by this community and provide suggestions to improve the quality of life for transpeople.

Edwards, Douglas J. 2001. “Outing the Issue.” Nursing Homes Long Term Care Management 50:40-44.

This article discusses retirement and long-term care for LGBT populations. Geared mostly to service providers, it provides ways to make LGBT people feel accepted within integrated communities. It does not go into specific needs for transgender people in great detail, but offers supportive resources for more information.

Lombardi, Emilia L., Riki Anne Wilchins, D. Priesing, and D. Malouf. 2001. “Gender Violence: Transgender Experiences with Violence and Discrimination.” Journal of Homosexuality 42:89-101.

This article is a collective effort to highlight an unfortunately common experience of transgender people. The information contained within this article is moving and is effective in arguing for increased legal protection for transpeople. Anyone interested in political advocacy for transgender people should read this article.

Namaste, Vivian K. and Sharon E. Preves. 2001. “Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People.” Journal of Sex Research 38:269-71.

This article discusses the lack of information about transgender experiences in research. It calls for more inclusion and integration of transgender experiences to provide for better services. It successfully places trans issues at the forefront of sex research and is of concern to researchers in the field.

Thomas, S. and G. Mason. 2001. Engendering Homophobia: Violence, Sexuality and Gender Conformity.” British Journal of Sociology 37:257-73.

This article discusses issues faced by transgender people in Europe. It details the connections between homophobia and sexism and how they relate to transgender oppression. Although academic in tone, it is useful for readers interested in how different oppressions intersect.

Witten, Tarynn M. and Evan A. Eyler. 1999. “Hate Crimes and Violence Against the Transgendered.” Peace Review 11:461-69.

This article describes the transgender population and focuses on how transpeople have been targeted with violence. This provides one of the first looks into the problem of violence against transpeople.

In compiling this bibliography, it is clear that a lot of work still needs to be done. Many voices of transgender elders remain unheard, and transpeople are underrepresented in the available gerontological literature. In addition, the references cited above will appeal to different audiences in terms of content and accessibility. Some readings are most useful for transgender people in processes of self-discovery or for personal knowledge and information. Other resources will be helpful for SOFFAs. Finally, many of the references will appeal to those with academic or professional interests. It is my sincere hope that these references serve as a catalyst for future exploration of the topic of transgender aging experiences.

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