The Unique Phrase That Explains Why Time ‘Feels Different’ To Queer And Trans People

“Historically, their lives start later.”

queer couple embrace each other in front of pride flag Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

If you are a Queer or trans person and feel behind in life, there’s a reason. Unknown to many, the linear cisgender-heteronormative timeline of life doesn’t quite apply to the LGBTQ+ community.

While many cis-straight people tend to follow the traditional paths of education, marriage, reproduction, and death, this lifestyle doesn’t capture the lived realities of Queer and trans people, and this causes them to perceive time totally differently.


A podcast host took to TikTok to discuss the unique phrase that characterizes the Queer and trans community’s unconventional sense of time.

Hannah McElhinney began the video by explaining the concept, called Queer temporality.

“Historically, as Queer and trans people, our lives have started much later and, for a whole bunch of reasons, ended earlier than our cishet (cisgender heterosexual) counterparts,” they explained. “So, as a result, our experience of time is compressed.”

@rainbowhistoryclass Sorry we didn’t reply, we were on queer time xoxoThis week’s episode on queer temporality is out now 🎧 #pridemonth #history #historytime #coolfacts #gaytiktok ♬ original sound - 🌈 Rainbow History Class 🌈

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Various Queer theorists, like Lee Edelman, Jack Halberstam, Jose Esteban Muñoz, and Elizabeth Freeman, have studied this ideology, suggesting a reevaluation of what defines a happy and successful life.

“Those ‘milestones’ that we've been socialized to use to mark the passage of time, things like marriage, or having children, or working, retiring, inheritance, haven't been accessible to us,” McElhinney continued. “And that linear timeline has a name — heterochronology.”

Many Queer and trans individuals feel isolated from this heteronormative experience, often causing them to feel behind or alienated. In reality, outside societal expectations, there is no right or wrong way to live life, which is why it’s important to discuss the uniqueness of the LGBTQ+ community’s experiences.

If you’ve ever felt like you’re behind in life, this could be due to the lack of inclusivity and diversity of heterochronology.

In reality, you are not behind at all — you are simply moving through your own unique timeline. Rather than conforming to a lifestyle that is not for everyone, you are going about your life on your own terms and timing. And while some may cast judgment on you for this, as long as you’re living a life that serves your highest purpose, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.


In another TikTok video, Carson, who goes by @tenderlibra, elaborated on the concept of Queer temporality, suggesting it is the “direct rejection” of what a nuclear family generally looks like.

“The nuclear family gives us one lineation with how we’re supposed to interact with time. It starts with childhood, young adulthood, education, a ‘real job’ in the capitalistic workforce, marriage, babies, death,” Carson explained. “Queer people live in direct opposition to this. We come out later in life, we don’t have kids, we don’t all subscribe to monogamy.”

Despite the challenges and discrimination the Queer and trans community experiences throughout their lives, they eventually find more fulfillment and freedom when they go against the grain and follow their heart’s desires. Rather than fitting into a box they simply don’t relate to, they listen to their needs and walk to the beat of their own drum.


Regardless of what others may have to say about your life decisions, your life belongs to you. At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is yours. And if you’re happy and free, who cares?

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Queer and trans people related to this concept in the comments, feeling assured with their personal life experiences.

"This is so validating," someone expressed. "Every time I bring up my decision not to have kids, people say, 'Oh, you’ll change your mind.'"

"It’s like I have a pre-[Queer] life, and then once I came out, I could be myself," another individual shared. "I feel like my life started at 27," someone else commented.


lgbtq queer friends celebrate pride - Yuri A / Shutterstock

"For trans people, milestones just look different," one person suggested. "Going through puberty, surgeries, social transitioning. We just have vastly different priorities to cis people ... so thinking about having a family is much farther in the future."

"The beginning of my social transition was a milestone, and my being outed to unsupportive family was a roadblock," someone related. "My life will begin when my medical transition begins."


"As a queer AuDHD person, I’m way 'behind' according to [the] traditional timeline, but I’ve completely embraced it," another person expressed. "Now, in my 40s, I’ve never felt more like myself!"

Straying away from the cis-heteronormative timeline doesn't mean your life is any less valid.

Every Queer and trans person’s experience is different from the next. Some recognize their identities early on in life. Others may take decades until they understand who they are.

In fact, for some, there is a periodic state of confusion and uncertainty about their true identities, which is why many may advocate for tossing the labels and simply allowing their feelings to flow naturally and freely.

Through this journey of self-discovery, Queer and trans individuals experience their own individual timelines and milestones. Education, marriage, and children are still always options, but they tend to not be the focus of their priorities. 


queer and trans friends laugh and wave pride flag Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Instead, there is a stronger emphasis on the path to learning, validating, and accepting yourself. Often, it isn't until a Queer or trans person finally comes to terms with their sexuality and identity that life truly begins for them.

Personally, I know that I had completely different expectations for my life before I realized I was Queer. Once I did come out and started exploring myself, I felt like my life truly began. 


I may not resonate with the traditional cis-heteronormative expectations of a "happy life," but I have still found boundless joy and fulfillment in accepting my identity and lifestyle choices, and so can every member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Remember to have compassion for yourself, and don't let the close-minded views of others step in the way of your true, authentic happiness. 

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​​Francesca Duarte is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team based in Orlando, FL. She covers lifestyle, human-interest, adventure, and spirituality topics.