Being transgender is not a lifestyle choice. You carry this around with you the whole time. You don’t decide – it decides for you.
You get to a point where you lose the fight and have to succumb. I vaguely remember the moment I lost the battle – it just dawned on me while I was at university.
Shortly afterwards I graduated and started work at the Bank of England and it was actually there that I transitioned. The security guards used to call me (affectionately!) the ‘new lady of Threadneedle Street’.
I transitioned in the early 1990s and started at law firm Slaughter and May soon after. I felt I had to mention it to my new employer just before I joined as I’d had my interview in my old identity and of course in the meantime had made this drastic switch. They were totally fine about it.
I probably looked a little bit androgynous back then – nowadays there’s more advanced techniques like laser surgery and so on so I looked a little bit interim. People did realise and you had to get into conversations in order to broach the topic.
I’ve been constantly blown away by the support and understanding I’ve had from virtually everyone – certainly in the workplace. Nothing has ever once been said – at least to my face. I’ve never felt I’ve been held back because of my gender identity.
In my current role at Gowling WLG, I’m sometimes asked how to draw up a transgender policy in workplaces. I don’t hold myself out as any sort of expert in that – I’m a planning lawyer not an HR expert.
But I am happy to tell my story, and explain what it’s like to be in that situation. It’s not that difficult – policies should just create a framework so that a person can be dealt with as an individual with dignity, and be treated according to their preference.
I no longer feel like a second-class citizen – I feel empowered.
Also it helps that people are becoming aware of transgender needs and that you can meet people who are not just leading ordinary lives, but extraordinary ones too. It’s a lot easier to be yourself now than it once was.
I never had any role models. Back when I transitioned your typical transsexual was the one who got murdered early on in the movie, if they were not actually the murderer! Always the outsider. Or there’d be sensationalist reporting – transsexual beauty queens and all that.
So I feel I have a sort of duty to stand up and be counted, and if that means I can be a role model, then I’m glad to be one!