Identities outside of the gender binary are often framed as something “new”, as “trends”, or as identities only experienced or expressed by younger generations. However, Kate Bornstein, an author, performer and advocate, is 71 and self-describes in an interview as a nonbinary femme-identified trans person. In a recent New York Times article, Reflections on Life after Stonewall, Borstein, who uses they/them as well as she/her pronouns, describes their lifelong experiences with gender identity.
“At first, it scared me. But it didn’t take me long to enjoy my outsider status. As neither/nor — as nothing — my life was starting to make sense. When it comes to gender and sexuality, I am nothing but possibilities. What’s more, it turns out that these days I’ve got a nonbinary family: lots of people who are neither men nor women. All of us are virtually nothing in the eyes of a culture that sees two and only two”. – Kate Bornstein
Borstein counters the argument that nonbinary gender identities are trends among younger generations and states “that it’s been going on for a long time, and now there’s a more robust and accessible vocabulary to address it”.
In an article, counsellor and researcher, Dr Gávi Ansara, discusses how best to support trans and gender nonbinary older adults. Dr Ansara proposes that best methods include treating their needs as “normal and legitimate”, individualised service provision, challenging notions and actions of cisgenderism (for example “pathologising, misgendering, marginalising, coercive queering and objectifying biological language”) and learning from their wisdom and incorporating that wisdom into practice.
IFA expert Dr Pamela B. Teaster is an expert in human rights, public policy, active ageing, elder abuse and frailty as well as a co-editor of the book “Handbook of LGBT Elders”. Contact her for an expert opinion on ageing and gender identity and consider attending the IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing which will draw attention to the role life experience and identity has on the health and ability of older people.
Dr. Pamela B. Teaster Dean of Research
Dr. Pamela Teaster professor in the Department of Human Development in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.