'Coming Out' At 72: Who I Am And Why It Matters

Close up of hands of older woman resting on knees
Close up of hands of older woman resting on knees

Pretending to be someone else is acceptable. Impressionists do it. Actors make it an art.

Out of the entertainment realm, though, you're on shaky ground. A overweight slug claiming online to be a handsome hunk who craves long talks and loves walking on the beach? Not good. A criminal, creating a facade to purloin the life savings of unsuspecting investors? No, that's frowned upon.

So what must society make of someone in real life who plays a character for decades -- perhaps for his or her entire existence? Suspicious? Untrustworthy? Even criminal?

No. If you're transgender, it's okay! It's encouraged!

As much as you might think it's wrong, keep doing it... okay? Otherwise, you're just going to upset people. And no one wants that.

Sometimes being yourself is the hardest role you'll accept -- but not because the part is difficult. In fact, it feels quite natural. No, the problem is not with you. It's the audience. Some won't accept you that way. A few may take it too far and threaten your personal safety.

That's because what you're attempting is seen as behavior. When you choose to do something, you can just as easily not do it. The fact that you have made the choice to upend the binary concept of gender bothers those for whom life needs to fit neatly into a few little boxes.

You're not "normal". You're not like them. They're not going to make the effort to learn about you, because to do so might threaten their narrow understanding of what is good and right and acceptable.

So it's far better for them that you keep it to yourself. Don't stop being the person you "should be".

"Ah," you say. "That's the point. I should be my true self."

Of course, that response brings out the heavy artillery.

You have this or that DNA, chromosome, bone structure, or plumbing. You're mutilating your body. You were abused. You're recruiting children. You have an agenda. You're a pervert. You're a sinner. Oh... and you're ugly, too.

Having watched a great deal of this back-and-forth discussion over the years, I'm struck by the fact that those who are least likely to know anything about us believe themselves most qualified to describe who and what we are.

They recommend that we seek medical help. We say that we must and we have. They reply that the doctors know nothing and are just a bunch of "liberals" anyway.


"I'm struck by the fact that those who are least likely to know anything about us believe themselves most qualified to describe who and what we are."

I'm amused to find that, in their minds, I enjoy a transgender "lifestyle." They think that at some point I simply took a look at the "opposite" gender and decided on a whim to desert my team and sign up to play for them.

They couldn't conceive of doing that themselves, of course. So why is it so easy for them to think that I would? And what are the supposed advantages?

Well, enough of that ranting and raving. Can I just use the word "idiots" here for simplicity's sake? We all know they're with us and probably will be for a long time to come. I've tried to be polite, but let's face it. When it comes to transgender matters, they're idiots.

I wasn't fully "out" until age 72. That's more than six decades of role-playing, and I know a lot of people who have done it even longer. Some took the secret to their graves.

When it finally boils to the surface and you're this old, you have little to no patience for anyone who tells you what to do. High on the list of regrets for people facing death is that they didn't live as who they really were. They spent all that time being who others decided they ought to be. So, in the end, they hadn't lived at all.


"I wasn't fully 'out' until age 72. That's more than six decades of role-playing, and I know a lot of people who have done it even longer. Some took the secret to their graves."

Here's my message for the idiots. Butt out. Leave me alone. Leave the kids alone. Leave us all alone. I don't care what you think, because you choose not to know. Believe what you like, but if it's not based upon fact, don't think I or anyone else will put much stock in what you say. In knowledge and experience, I have progressed well beyond your ability to teach, convince or convert me.

You know what's really laughable? There are those who presume me to be a radical... someone who's out there waving signs and manning the barricades in pursuit of the chance to invade bathrooms and maybe even destroy a few traditional marriages if I have a chance.

No.

I'm a very happily wed great grandparent. I'm a pretty quiet person. You might not know I'm transgender unless I told you. Many are aware, and it hasn't been a problem. So I'm unusual in that way. I know that most like me struggle a great deal and lose much of what matters to them. I have been fortunate.

My heart breaks for the young ones -- those who are being bullied. We've come so far since I was a child. It's a shame that the idiots haven't evolved with the rest of the culture.

If I do nothing else with my life, I want to represent to the public at large the vast majority of transgender individuals -- people like me who are otherwise quite like everyone else and want nothing more than to be treated with respect and decency. Education is the key to understanding.

And let the idiots stew in their own bile.

(That wasn't very nice, was it?)

Kenna Henderson is the author of I'm Not The Man I Used To Be.

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This post is part of HuffPost's Journey Beyond the Binary blog series, an editorial effort to bring diverse trans and gender non-conforming voices to the HuffPost Blog during and after Pride month. As the LGBTQIA community celebrates great strides forward this June, it's important to acknowledge the struggles still pertinent to trans and gender variant members of the community. Please email any pitches to beyondbinary@huffingtonpost.com