By Colleen McTigue
My name is Colleen, and I turned 58 this year. In the past few years I’ve gone through an amazing period of self-discovery and self-definition, and many things about my life have changed radically. I would say that the biggest thing that changed for me in the past few years is that I was finally able to understand and accept who I truly am, and to realize that I am worthy and lovable, just as I am. This realization has allowed me the freedom to reveal my true self to others in my life, and to open myself to new possibilities. This change did not happen all at once; it was not a sudden epiphany, but it involved hard work over a long period of time, and the love of my family, friends and lovers.
Of course, from this realization flowed a multitude of changes, some of which were very difficult, some painful, others wonderful and even miraculous. One of the most interesting changes I’ve experienced has been a change in my understanding of my sexuality. I say, “change in my understanding,” because if I’m honest, I’m pretty sure I’ve been bisexual all along, but I spent most of my life thinking of myself as strictly heterosexual. Maybe I’m just more relaxed now that I’m older. As a young man, I knew I was very strongly attracted to women, but from time to time, I would interact sexually with other men. My inner self-identification was female, and in my sexual fantasies, I would envision myself as the woman I knew myself to be, and my partners were almost always men. I thought of myself as a heterosexual male, however. It was only recently, as I went through my gender transition, that I began to allow myself to identify as bisexual.
My gender transition was, I think, the catalyst that opened my mind to other possibilities. If I could challenge something as basic as gender, I thought (perhaps semi-subconsciously), what other aspects of identity might be similarly challenged? As I underwent hormone therapy and my body began to change, I noticed a change in how I looked at men and women. Men began to appear more attractive to me, and I began to actively think of them as potential sexual and romantic partners. Before long, I began to act on those thoughts. However, my attraction to women remained as strong as ever.
There were a few “bumps in the road” I had to endure because of my particular history. I had, unfortunately, built up a lot of internalized gender-and-sexuality phobias over the years, which is hardly surprising since my life had been lived in a veritable “Russian nesting doll” assortment of closets constructed from homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. I had spent my life hating myself and my body, and it all came to a head in mid-transition when I came to believe that my potential dating pool consisted entirely of “tranny-chasers,” who would only want me as a fetish object. I despaired of finding anyone to actually love me.
Fortunately, life has a way of surprising us. I met Sam (not his real name) about three months before my gender-confirming surgery, although at the time I didn’t yet know when the surgery would be. There was an instant and very electric attraction for both of us, which didn’t take long to turn into love. He cared for me after my surgery, we spent long afternoons cuddling together, and we grew incredibly close during that time. He’s been with me almost two years now. About six months after my surgery, I met Aileen (not her real name), and she and I recently celebrated our first anniversary. Ours is a long-distance relationship, which is not easy, but technology helps us fill in the gaps, and we Skype almost every night in addition to emails and text messages so we feel very connected with each other. We are very much in love. So not only have I found love, I’ve found it twice, I’m having more sex than I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s far, far better than any sex I’ve ever had before.
So what has this to do with age and sexuality? Well, Sam is 10 years younger than me, and Aileen is eight years older than me, but to me it feels like we’re all about the same age. They are each, in his or her own way, very compatible with me and I with them. They both enjoy me, and I enjoy both of them. And this all came about, I believe, because all of us were open to whatever possibilities might present themselves. I had previously been in a monogamous heterosexual marriage for over 30 years and when that ended I decided I would not seek a similar union, but I would wait and see what life might offer. I was very honest and open with both Sam and Aileen, letting them know I was not willing to make an exclusive commitment to one person, and we were able to find a balance that suits us all.
One thing I have come to firmly believe is that nothing in our lives is ever wasted. Everything we experience in life leads us to the person we eventually become. I am very proud and happy about who I am and how I live my life, and I would not trade any part of it for a different path. It has all been worthwhile.
Age is just a number. Your true age is how you feel. Aileen and I recently attended a day-long workshop for womyn, and as the day went on, we came to realize that we were easily the oldest womyn there, but we never felt out of place, and in fact the other participants appreciated the experiences we shared. When I’m out in public with Sam, I never feel old, and in fact I feel younger now than I did five years ago (and I look younger, too). Never be afraid of age. Take care of yourself, be kind to yourself, and you will have a long and enjoyable life.
Colleen is currently studying adult education with a view to becoming a diversity educator. She is also working on a semi-autobiographical novel, and enjoying life to the fullest.