A Response to “It’s Never Too Late To Make a Change”

This blog post was written by SAGE‘s Executive Director, Michael Adams, as a response to “It’s Never Too Late To Make a Change,” a New York Times article focusing on transgender aging and originally appeared on the SAGE Blog

As “It’s Never Too Late To Make a Change,” New York Times, March 8, 2015, demonstrates, more and more transgender people are making the decision to embrace their gender identity later in life. As the New York Times points out, the pull to live your life as who you truly are runs deep at every stage of life. The stories shared by the Times are powerful profiles of grit, hope and liberation. The story not yet told is that, just as society plays a huge role in making the lives of transgender elders more difficult, there is tremendous opportunity and need to reform social policies so they stop discriminating against older people who are trans and start honoring and supporting them for who they are.

TransagingAs a major policy report issued in 2012 by Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) documents, transgender older people face profound challenges and experience striking disparities in health care needs and access, employment, housing and much more. Improving The Lives of Transgender Older Adults, explains how transgender older people frequently encounter a health care system and national aging network that are ill-prepared to provide culturally competent care and services that affirm their gender identities and expressions.

Improving the Lives of Transgender Older Adults doesn’t just settle on describing the problems.  Through 60 specific recommendations, the report provides a concrete and specific roadmap to policymakers and practitioners in the public and private sectors – highlighting what changes can and must be made.  The recommendations include steps to make services in the publicly-funded aging network more trans-inclusive, ways to improve health care, steps to end violence and abuse, strategies for equal opportunity in employment and housing, and steps to improve economic security among transgender older people.

Fortunately, we are starting to make some progress.  For example, as the New York Times article points out, SAGE is providing support groups for older transgender people.  And some progress is being made at the state and federal level on vitally important issues like insurance coverage and identity documents.  But much more remains to be done to implement the SAGE/NCTE blueprint and give transgender older people the equity and support they deserve.

Let’s hope that the powerful spotlight that the New York Times has shined on transgender pioneers stepping out in the third chapter of their lives will inspire policymakers and practitioners to play their part to make this world a welcoming one for people of all gender identities and ages.  The SAGE/NCTE report makes it clear that we know what needs to be done.  Let’s get on with the business of doing it.