Becoming Sexually Active as an Older Transgender Adult
As you get older, your wants and desires may begin to change. Those who never felt the need to fully transition may begin to think about gender reassignment or stepping further from occasional cross dressing and living life as their preferred gender. The desire to take this step is a life changing decision and with it follows a change in the way you need to take care of your sexual health.
The over 50’s are a generation that are largely forgotten in sexual health. However, STI’s in people aged 50-70 have increased by more than a third over the last decade. This is believed to be due to the rise in divorce rates and partnering, meeting partners later in life and people forgoing condoms due to the low risk of pregnancy.
For those in the LGBT community and older transgender adults, the risks of contracting an STI are even higher. Even more worrying, cases of HIV have also increased for those aged 50-70, with HIV now accounting for 16% of new STI cases diagnosed, so staying on top of sexual health is more important than ever.
So why are older members of the LGBT community ignoring their sexual health?
Many older members of the LGBT community haven’t experienced the same understanding and acceptance that we are working towards today. The current system is by no means perfect and there are still lots of lessons to be learned. However, many older transgender service users have faced years of humiliation and have an acute fear of further discrimination. It is this fear that prevents them from accessing the vital sexual health services that they need. Furthermore, when the older generation were growing up, the biggest worry was about unwanted pregnancy and until the Aids epidemic, information about STI’s was very poor.
Tackling poor sexual health for the LGBT community
It wasn’t until 2010 that UK ran its first ever safe sex campaign that specifically targeted those over the age of 50. The ‘Middle Age Spread’ campaign was created to alert the older generation to the spread of STI’s. The document encouraged medical health professionals to work together to remind over 50’s to wear condoms during sex. Quite shockingly, at least 20% of the older generation admitted to having unprotected sex with a new partner, a figure which accounts for the unprecedented increase in STI’s.
The People Over 50 – Relationships and Sexual Health information booklet also offered practical advice for the heterosexual and LGBT community on developing new relationships, sexual health and even the correct way to put on a condom. This was a great start. However, STI’s amongst older generations are continuing to increase.
With many members of the LGBT community already feeling stigmatised and reluctant to open up to health professionals, opportunities to discuss safe sex and promote the use of male and female condoms are being missed, which can lead to the spread of STI’s and in more serious cases, death.
The latest figures published from Public Health England show there were 434,456 STI’s reported in England in 2015, 54,275 of which were among members of the LGBT community which was a 10% increase since 2014. Chlamydia was the most commonly diagnosed STI, accounting for 46% of diagnoses, closely followed by genital warts. The new statistics illustrate that STI’s are much higher for younger people and men who have sex with men, but this does include some members of the LGBT community, so changes desperately need to be made in order to ensure that people are protecting themselves for contracting life changing STI’s like HIV.
For those who haven’t heard of HIV, it stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is a very serious virus that attacks the body’s immune system. HIV can be transmitted through during sex semen, blood and anal and vaginal fluids and has no known cure. Many who have HIV can lead long and healthy lives through advances in treatment – as long as it is diagnosed early. Without treatment, or if treatment is delayed, HIV can completely destroy the immune system and lead to another condition called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which can lead to death. According to Public Health England, a late diagnosis of HIV can lead to a tenfold increase of the chance of death in the first year after diagnosis.
The number of people being diagnosed with HIV in later life has seen a dramatic increase in recent years with around 1 in 6 newly diagnosed cases being a person over the age of 50 in 2015. With the right support and treatment, they have every chance of continuing to live a long and healthy life. Therefore, it is imperative that the Government finds a way to engage the older members of the LGBT community.
Strategy for better improving STI rates in older LGBT Communities
In order to reverse the rapid increase in sexual infection throughout this vulnerable group, Public Health England devised an action plan to raise awareness of sexually transmitted infection, reduce the incidences of unprotected sex, provide rapid access to sexual health services, maintain sexual health as people age, reduce infection rates of HIV and prevent avoidable deaths.
The action plan recognises that people of different ages have different sexual health needs and the action plan recommends delivering the correct support requirements at the time when it is needed the most. Members of the LGBT community, particularly men who have sex with men (even if they identify as female) are a particularly vulnerable group as they are the group who are most affected by HIV. Public Health England recommends looking at localised communities and groups to find out why these groups are having unprotected sex and working with them to promote the use of condoms, promoting safe sex and encouraging members to undertake regular screening tests by increasing accessibility for this vulnerable group.
Getting Help with HIV and STI’s
The Terence Higgins Trust strongly promote equal rights and good health to those affected by HIV. They also have a service finder, so that you can access your nearest sexual health clinic and get tested.
You can find the nearest available sexual health and testing service on the NHS Choices website. Simply type in your postcode and it will direct you to nearby services.
For those who prefer a free STI test that you can do at home. The SH:24 STI testing kits are a discreet and private way to test for STI’s in the comfort of your own home. Follow the link to order your free kit and test for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis and HIV. The results are sent by text message in addition to recommendations for treatment and the support services available.