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My Story

I'm sure you'll appreciate that it's hugely difficult to describe the path my entire life has taken without going into far too much detail.

Hopefully what I've written here (which I've distilled from lots of musings I've written down since I started my journey) will give you an idea of how I came to be the person I am now.

Contents

  1. Beginnings
  2. University and Work
  3. Marriage and Family
  4. Saved!
  5. Acceptance and Consequences
  6. Asking for Help
  7. My Church, and their Reaction
  8. Divorce
  9. Starting Treatment
  10. Work
  11. Surgery
  12. Friends
  13. A New Challenge
  14. A New Spiritual Home
  15. The Future
  16. Finally...

 

Beginnings

With my Grandad Metcalfe - a long, long time agoI was born Andrew John Metcalfe in September 1966, in a town called Bishop Auckland in County Durham in North East England.

I became aware that I was different when I was around 7 or 8. I remember looking at myself in a mirror and being upset at what I saw - I wished I had been born a girl. I wasn't a sociable child, and had few friends. I coped by throwing myself into my schoolwork (and later my career) - a habit I only really managed to break when I accepted I was transsexual in 2001.

My teenage years were a complete mess. Like many suffering with gender dysphoria, I experimented with cross-dressing (which not surprisingly was mixed up with evolving - and confused - sexual feelings). Eventually I learnt what a "transvestite" was and felt deeply afraid and ashamed - so much so that I pretty much invented my whole visible personality to disguise my feelings and protect myself.

In the late 1970's at the age or 12 or 13 I became aware that I wasn't alone in my feelings - and that treatment was available - when I saw a BBC documentary called "George to Julia", which described the gender reassignment treatment a transsexual woman named Julia Grant was undergoing. What I saw in that documentary absolutely terrified me - in particular the truly appalling way she was treated by her psychiatrist at Charing Cross Hospital (a sadistic man called Randall, who's thankfully no longer able to inflict such misery on others). The fact that I felt I had nothing in common with Julia didn't help, either. In effect she represented a stereotype of femininity I didn't aspire to at all.

A few years later the appalling way that Caroline Cossey ("Tula") was hounded by the tabloid press when it was revealed that she was transsexual confirmed just how bigoted and unaccepting society was at the time. With hindsight, it's obvious to me now that in that climate of ignorance there was no way I could have talked to anyone about my feelings. Maybe that's for the best, as I suspect that had I tried to obtain help then I wouldn't have survived - at the time being trans was something you had to hide very well (even once treatment was completed) and that's not something I feel I could have done. I now also know that the surgery available to trans women then was primitive - had I undertaken it the results would have been crude and insensitive at best.

As time passed, fantasies and daydreams became my way of coping without acknowledging my feelings (or cross-dressing for that matter - that became taboo to me). Of course, in my fantasies I was always female - I often wondered what it would be like just to be one of the girls I knew.
 

University and Work

By the time I left school and went to Surrey University in 1985, I'd managed to bury my feelings so deeply that I was only dimly aware of them (I certainly wouldn't accept them). I tried to be "normal" - and to an extent I suppose I succeeded. I discovered I loved live music, and became quite involved with music societies in the Student Union. I tried to be a social person, but it was never natural to me, and it showed. I had lots of aquaintences, but so few close friends.

After leaving University in 1989 I started working in Maidenhead (Berkshire). I did all the usual things: lots of social drinking (I was even a CAMRA beer taster for a while!), sports, paintballing (I was a marshall for a short while), gaming, and finally in 1993 I found something that really suited me - I joined a Living History/Battle Re-enactment group named The Hounds of the Morrigan which provided an outlet for the more (shall we say) flamboyant parts of my personality:

The Tudor Household drilling at St. Albans way back in (I think) 1994...I'm in there somewhere!   In Landsknect gear at a street march in Maidenhead (June 1995)
Me in Summer 1998, just after the birth of our firstborn. At the time I was largely happy, and unaware of the turmoil that would enter my life only 3 years later

Marriage and Family

I met my future wife in July 1996 at Tewkesbury Medieval Festival (a large War of the Roses re-enactment held every year). I was there as a participant with one of the groups I was a member of (the Woodville Household) whilst she had travelled over with an Irish group from Dublin. I remember the way we both felt that weekend vividly, and when we parted on the Sunday evening I was inconsolable. I felt like I'd found a soulmate, and to be parted from her was incredibly painful.

She eventually came to live with me, and we were married in July 1997. Our first child was born in July 1998, and our second in July 2000. I was present when both were born and it was a truly remarkable experience - as any parent will understand.

Being married was both wonderful and sad - wonderful because I had someone so special to share my life with, and sad because I had to hide from myself and others my deep feelings of regret at being born the way I was. Apart from (still) being ashamed of how I felt (while not even acknowledging how I felt to myself - being trans is complicated!) I was also afraid that talking about it would hurt her so much it could destroy our relationship and family.

Looking back, I do wonder if it was becoming a parent that started to bring my feelings to the surface again. I certainly wasn't a typical father - my maternal instincts felt far too strong to conform to that role.

As time went on (and possibly accelerated by the experience of being at the birth of our two children) the feelings of sadness and regret grew gradually stronger. Despite this, I still wouldn't acknowledge them (it didn't even occur to me that I might be transsexual, and I certainly had no intention of changing myself physically), and looking back I think that I started to grow more withdrawn as a result. That certainly wasn't a good thing.
 

Saved!cross01b.gif

In Spring 2001 I attended an Alpha Course (basically an introduction to Christianity) at Buckskin Evangelical Church. For about a year beforehand I'd known that Faith was developing within me, but I waited until I felt I was ready before telling anyone. I started attending Church (with my wife) early in the year, and when I found out about the Alpha Course I knew it was something I should do.

To cut a long story short I was Saved one Thursday evening in April 2001. I was a little hesitant so I needed a bit of prompting at first, but once I finally opened and asked Jesus to accept me as a Christian the feeling of God's Love was unmistakable. I just can't describe it, except to say that it was wonderful.

After the main part of each course there was a prayer/discussion meeting. On one particular evening I remember one thing that struck me more than anything else…the fact that when we are Saved, the old person is left behind and a new one born. I felt that this was a sign to discard the masks I'd worn over the years and to be true to myself.

By that time, I accepted that I had a gender disorder of some kind, and I knew that I had to deal with it somehow. I reasoned that I had to accept how I was and move on - without making any physical changes (after all, I had a family to think of). I started praying for help and wisdom, and over the next three months I gradually became truer to myself and as I felt a sense of contentment and peace I'd never felt before. I just knew I was doing the right thing.

Eventually there was only one hurdle left - to discard the last of my many masks, and the biggest of them all. Before I could do that, I needed to understand why I felt the way I did, and in early July I started doing web searches and reading the experiences of others who have confronted the same feelings. As I did so I kept seeing echoes of my own life and feelings - so often that I knew it had to be more than coincidence. I researched more, studying medical and psychiatric literature and learning more and more each day.
 

Acceptance and Consequences

After a month of reading and researching I knew I had to know if what I suspected about myself was true, and on 4th August 2001 I bit the bullet and took no fewer than three online gender tests. They all said the same thing - I had a condition called "Gender Dysphoria". One of the tests was more forthright than the other two and diagnosed me as a "probable last-onset Transsexual", and that my condition was "potentially serious and indicative of a probable inborn gender conflict", and that I should at the very least seek counselling - or even experiment with living full-time as a woman.

Despite the tests confirming what I already suspected, the results still came as a huge shock. Although I felt vindicated and relieved at knowing why I felt the way I did, I didn't fully appreciate the impact of what I'd accepted, and I certainly wasn't prepared for the feelings that acceptance unleashed. Over the next few weeks, I rode an emotional roller-coaster - euphoria, followed by intense depression (and on really bad days, complete despair) - again and again, repeating constantly. The fact that I had no-one to confide in didn't help.

That all started to change on 28th August 2001. That evening I was in a Christian chatroom called Adams Rib, and ended up talking to a girl who was in some distress. She kept calling herself a "freak", and I felt genuinely sorry for her and wanted to try to help. Eventually, she confessed to me that the reason that she was upset was that she had a condition called Gender Dysphoria, was in the process of transition from a male to female role, and had been suffering hostility from people she'd trusted as friends. I was stunned - I'd met someone who suffered - and understood - the same pain that I felt.

That contact moved me a step further towards healing myself in that I finally accepted who I was (although I still couldn't talk about it to anyone else). She introduced me to a Christian MSN Community called "God's Rainbow World" and with their support I started to try to make some sense out of the mess I was in.

A little later I joined another MSN community - "TS Chat" - in which I met some wonderful friends - including Janey and Jo who I visited on my holiday in August 2002.
 

Asking for help

By the start of September I realised I couldn't deal with this by keeping quiet, and confided what I was feeling to three close friends - Robbie (who I called my adopted mum...we met while we were both hosting in a Christian chatroom some months earlier), Bev and Lisa. All of them were very accepting and sympathetic, and looking back at my diary for those few days I was full of optimism.

To get some professional help, I made an appointment to see my doctor on 14th September. I was scared stiff, but needn't have worried - she was amazingly understanding, and arranged for me to be referred to an NHS psychiatrist (who I saw on 21st November). I was so moved after that appointment that I wrote her a thank you letter!

I told my wife how I felt on 28th September. It wasn't planned, but in retrospect the time was about as right as it could ever have been - the emotional mess I was in was all too apparent to everybody around me. Not surprisingly this news wasn't welcome, and our relationship was very strained afterwards, although she did try to understand.

As time moved on I became more and more aware that my feelings weren't going to go away - even with counselling and support. I knew that I had a horrible choice to make - I could either become myself (most likely losing my family in the process) or suppress my identity again for the sake of my family. The fact that I doubted I could bury my feelings again even if I tried just made it worse.

By early December I'd accepted that I had no choice but to transition. Tragically, that Christmas was to be the last one we would spent together as a family.
 

My Church, and their Reaction

I told two people from my Church (a Christian Counsellor and one of the Elders) what I was going through in December 2001. By February there were a significant number of people aware of the situation - most of whom I considered to be friends and cared for deeply.

Although they didn't understand at first (especially the guys!), they were very sympathetic, and did what they could to help. They referred me for Christian counseling - which was (I'm sad to say) a complete disaster from the start. Although the counselors I saw (who were from the local Community Church) were understanding, virtually the first thing they said to me was that they believed this was a psychiatric condition, and therefore could be cured - a position which is completely at odds with all current medical and psychiatric understanding and research. That session was doomed from the start, and we effectively agreed to disagree. Maybe they learn something from me - I certainly hope so.

On Thursday 20th March 2002 I was summoned to a meeting with the Elders of the Church. Normally when I went to the Church I could feel such a feeling of pure love there, but this felt like a boardroom meeting - perhaps because in my heart I knew the outcome already. After I'd explained about how I'd come to where I was (basically summarising my life story, how I felt - everything), I was told that the Elders had researched the issues involved and prayed about the situation, and they now believed that for me to change my body would be against God's Will. They asked me to stop any preparations I was making for Transition, and told me that if I went ahead "There will be consequences". I told them that I wouldn't make a promise that I couldn't keep, and from then on, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was asked to leave.

In all honesty it felt as if they'd decided on the outcome they wanted, and then gone hunting in the Bible for passages to back it up...certainly, to me the scripture they quoted seemed worse than tenuous in this context. Needless to say, I don't agree with their logic or their interpretation of God's Will, and I certainly don't believe that God wants us to live in misery unnecessarily or judges us based on what changes we make to our bodies to become true to ourselves - that just doesn't fit with Jesus' message to us as God's children. Transsexualism and Intersex conditions are recognised as birth defects and if not treated they can kill - a tragedy which happened to a friend of mine in September 2003. Rest in peace Debbie .

Even if that doesn't happen, these conditions lead the sufferer to live a lie - to build walls around their true self and act out a life that isn't their true path. Having experienced that for many years, believe me it doesn't lead one to be a particularly good person, no matter how true one's heart really is.

To say I was hurt and upset by what the Elders had said to me is a severe understatement. I just couldn't believe they were doing this to me as over the previous four months there had been absolutely no hint of this outcome aside from the abortive counseling session. I felt as if I'd been let down badly, and (despite all assurances to the contrary) that they were judging me. To me it felt as if the Church as an organisation (as opposed to a fellowship) had decided that my presence would be too difficult to deal with, and wanted the problem to go away. After that meeting I l left in tears and didn't return for three weeks - and only then because a friend in the Church persuaded me that I was still welcome.

A month after I'd started hormone therapy I was summoned to another meeting on Monday 1st July 2002. It felt like I was in the dock at a Court Hearing rather than in the House of God, and of course I knew the outcome before I even arrived - they asked me to leave. At the meeting I undertook (without being asked) not to contact anyone from the Church unless they expressed a desire to remain in contact with me. At the time I felt that was only fair (the last thing I wanted to do is make anyone feel uncomfortable) but with hindsight it was probably just a way of keeping an inconvenient issue (i.e. someone like me) away from the church so they didn't have to confront it anymore.

Having known about the meeting for several days, the previous day when I took my two children to Church it was to say goodbye in my heart to the Church I loved. I was extremely emotional and struggling to hold back the tears, and yet when I arrived one close friend (who sings in the wonderful music group they have there) gave me a huge smile when she saw me arrive - a memory which still brings out the tears when I think of it. Being married to one of the Elders, she must have known what was about to happen, and yet her love and compassion shone through. I still miss her, as well as so many others.

Even now, looking at photographs of friends from that Church taken at my 35th birthday party makes me tearful.

Despite what I'd been told when I was asked to leave, I knew God was with me - I could (and still can) feel His Presence - exactly the same feeling of love and understanding I felt when I was Saved. That's remained with me throughout my journey, and I have no doubts whatsoever that I've been guided to do the right thing for a reason. I now believe a big part of that reason is to reach out to others who like me have been rejected by Churches they had confided in, and of course in integral part of that is to lead others - whether Christian or not -  to understand and accept us.

In September 2002 I took a big step in that direction when I was led to a new Church - St. Thomas of Canterbury in Worting. Ironically, it was not far away from my old Church, and is in fact rather closely affiliated with it. However, in contrast to the opinions expressed by the Elders at Buckskin Evangelical Church, the Rector at St. Thomas told me that he felt it was not his place to judge.

I transitioned in that Church on Sunday 22nd December 2002. Being Christmas the Church was of course extremely busy - and yet I felt nothing but love and acceptance. Since then, I made some great friends there, and although some in the Church found it difficult to understand me, not one rejected me.
 

Divorce

Despite the many challenges we've coped with as a couple, I knew my wife couldn't cope with being around me whilst I was going through transition, so when she told me she wanted a divorce at Christmas 2001, I wasn't at all surprised, though I was (and still am) extremely saddened.

Proceedings started in February 2002 and completed in Spring 2003. I don't feel I can discuss the details here except to say that it's a very painful process and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I was very relieved when it was finally over.
 

Starting Treatment

I started seeing NHS psychiatrists on a regular basis starting in November 2001. As they change every 6 months, I'm saw three before I was discharged in early 2003. I was fortunate in that the first two I saw were both female (and young), and I found them very easy to talk to. The third was male - which I could cope with by then, but probably couldn't have handled at the outset.

Having accepted what I needed to do I arranged to have a patch test for laser hair removal in January 2002 at Christianos Laser Clinic in London. I started treatment proper in March, and by August (after 5 treatments) the results were starting to show. In July 2002 I started getting my chest and abdominal hair treated too - this time at Hairaway (now Lasercare) in Shaftesbury Avenue, London.

Having heard nothing about a referral to Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic in London (but a lot of discouraging things about their treatment regime and the waiting lists) I made an appointment to see the (rather famous among the UK TS Community) consultant psychiatrist Dr. Russell Reid on 17th May 2002.

The appointment lasted for an hour or so and we talked about my experiences and feelings throughout my life…I couldn't help feeling that he could tell a lot more about me than I realised from what I was telling him! The surprise came at the end. I expected to have to come back for another appointment in 3 months time before any treatment would be prescribed, but in fact he wrote me a prescription (for Ovran and Oestrogel) there and then. I was stunned and flattered - I felt that another doorway (and a beautiful one at that) had been opened for me.

After a lot more prayer I started treatment on Wednesday 29th May, and by mid August (when I ventured out for the first time) I was developing very nicely indeed! I went back in early September for a follow-up consultation, and to get a fresh supply of hormones.

I moved out of the family home in late October, and after staying with friends for 6 weeks or so, finally found a new place to live (which was rather awkward as I was still only living part-time in the female role then) in early December.

I finally transitioned on Christmas Day 2002 (so I've now got an extra reason to celebrate Christmas!) and since then I've been living full-time as a female.

I felt like I'd found myself...it just felt right. After that, the only I ever appeared "male" (which didn't fool anyone - I'd changed so much!) was when I was seeing my children. Sadly, that contact ceased in May 2003, and I gave up on the Family Courts entirely in 2006.
 

Me shortly before leaving for my first day back at work. The butterflies didn't hit until I got into the building!Work

I always had a feeling that when the time came to start talking to my then employer (Sonardyne International Ltd) and colleagues about what I was going through I would find support.

I talked to the Engineering Director of the company about what I was facing in January 2002. As I'd hoped, he was very supportive, and over the next few months I kept him informed as to what was happening, as well as providing background literature. By early August I felt the time had come to inform the colleagues I work with directly of my situation, and he arranged to brief the team on my behalf (on the Friday before I went on holiday). The rest of the company (over 100 people in the UK alone) were informed of my transition and the reasons behind it in late November 2002.

I'm pleased to say that it went very, very well, and I had a lot of supportive things said to me afterwards! I went back to work as Anna on 6th January 2003 (after the Christmas break) without any issues. Although it felt a little surreal at first, things quickly settled down, although I did find working in a team where I'm the only female very difficult and upsetting at times. There were times when I really did need to be able to talk about what I'm feeling, and the guys just couldn't handle it. That really hurt, and many times I broke down and sat at my desk crying.
 

Surgery

The next big step in my journey was of course surgery. On 14th November 2003 (just under 11 months after transition) I underwent reassignment surgery with Dr. Suporn at Aikchol Hospital, Chonburi, Thailand.

Having never had much experience of the medical profession, I expected the experience to be clinical and a little impersonal. In practice the whole experience was quite something else entirely, and the results are everything I'd ever dreamed of - both in terms of appearance and sensitivity.

The front of the Dr. Suporn Clinic My room (803) in Aikchol Hospital Me asleep in the Hospital

On 21st January 2004 I returned there for facial feminisation surgery, to reverse some of the effects testosterone poisoning had had upon my facial appearance since puberty and help me to fully reintegrate back into society.
 

Friends

One thing that I have been heartened by is the response of friends - virtually everyone accepted my transition without any qualms, despite me being (in some cases) out of touch for many years. I've since met up with many of them, and it's almost as if nothing has changed. I've also been contacted by several former school friends and former work colleagues - who've expressed the same acceptance and support. I'm truly grateful to them all.

A New Challenge

When things change in your life, it is usually without warning. So it was once again with me, when in June 2004 I met someone new, and as a result things started to change once again.

As a result I left Sonardyne in August 2004 to found Riverblade - an independent software vendor focusing on software quality tools. That in itself is a (very) long story, but the end result is that 9 years on we're still going - so I assume we're doing something about right!

I'd be lying if I said that stepping outside the office world I'd inhabited up until then was an easy thing to do (there's an adage that this is a great way to end up working twice the hours for half the salary), but I've also found it to be a thoroughly liberating experience. It has also led us to do things we never expected - like attending and speaking at technical conferences. For me, this has been especially affirming - and something that's brought me into contact with many like-minded people.


 

A New Spiritual Home

As a result of meeting Beth, I eventually moved from Hampshire down to Dorset, eventually settling in Bournemouth. As a result, I left one inclusive church and found another - Metropolitan Community Church of Bournemouth. If you've not encountered them before, MCC are an inclusive Christian denomination founded by Revd. Troy Perry in 1968 and with a specific outreach to LGBT people.

I've now been at MCCB long enough to become part of the furniture, and inevitably I've gradually been asked to do things I never expected (or indeed imagined) as part of the ministry of the Church - everything from running the A/V desk ("our knobs go up to 11"), to helping out at events (and Pride marches!) or even serving communion.

It has (and is) a moving and very humbling place to be. I never expected anything like this, and it's just fantastic to be part of such an amazing ministry!


 

The Future

I have no idea what will come next in my life, but if the last few years have taught me anything, it is that unless I muck things up it will somehow be part of God's plan for me. As such, I try not to worry about things, and just get on with living my life and enjoying the tranquility I can find all around me now that I am finally at peace with myself.

Now that the Same Sex Marriage Act has passed in the UK Parliament, Beth and I plan to marry in the near future - in my Church!

Finally...

Me relaxing at the Suporn clinic in February 2004Until I transitioned I can honestly say that not one person truly knew me. I'm very glad to be able to say that that's no longer the case - since I stopped trying to pretend to be someone I'm not I've not only become true to myself but found it much, much easier to relate to other to people.

Although the experience was desperately painful for everyone involved I have no doubts whatsoever that I did the right thing. Had I tried to fight my dysphoria any longer, I have a strong feeling that sooner or later I'd have fallen into depression and lost myself totally - or worse. I've stared suicide in the face on more than one occasion and believe me it's not an experience I'd wish on anyone.

Acceptance of my true self had allowed me to be able to share who I am (and how I feel) with those closest to me. In doing so, I've found that my Faith has strengthened, I've become much closer to those around me and discovered so much about myself I'd subconsciously repressed while I was in denial.

I know I've become a better person for it - even though the journey was (and sometimes still is - I never was able to reconcile with my family) desperately painful at times. If you have to walk the same road - or are trying to understand someone close to you who is doing so - my thoughts and prayers are with you.

God Bless and good luck. :rose