Transition Later in Life: Ethical Questions

Wow, the NYT’s Ethicist column is not the place I’d expect to see this question raised, but I’m glad it has been, and his answer isn’t horrible for a newbie to trans lives. I say that because the letter writer did not mention being suicidal, and in fact does seem to have a lot of other, recognized causes for happiness in his life.

(For the record, there are trans women who choose not to transition because of previous commitments who manage to live and even thrive. )

That said, not every decision should or can be made based on the ethics of a situation, in my opinion – although they should always strongly inform major life choices.

This bit in particular rang out to me:

“Now, I realize what you’re referring to is a deeper, existential version of happiness that all people crave (and which goes far beyond having a good relationship or a good job). There are, however, many people who never experience that level of happiness, regardless of how they view their sexual identities. Even if you become someone else, you may never find it. So what we’re really weighing are the ethics of taking an irreversible gamble that will potentially improve your own interior life while significantly reinventing the lives of those around you.”

“Reinventing” seems a light way to put what can happen to a family as a result of transition.

And for some trans people, not transitioning is taking an irreversible gamble as well exactly because not transitioning can lead to suicidal depression.

That said, I do think any trans person who is married with children has an ethical responsibility to make sure they care for the people whose lives will be hurt the most in a myriad of ways: financial, emotional, etc.

(There are already 57 comments, but I haven’t made my way through them yet. I’m still a little post traumatic about reading comments section in response to any articles published anywhere about trans lives, and even though many people tell me the general tone of them has gotten a lot less hateful in the past few years, I’m really always a little worried that I will have to wade through 8 tons of transphobic bullshit.)