My son doesn’t know I’m transgender
Former south Wales soldier Claire* (not her real name) has lived for 40 years as a man, but knows her true gender is female. Her closest family members still do not know she is transgender.
In her own words she explains her exhaustion at still presenting as a man in Cardiff, and why she still does not feel ready to tell her family she is a woman in a man's body.
I served in the army for almost 20 years. I was married, I had a son with my wife and we seemed like a picture-book family.
But all the time I kept something from them - something I still haven't told them. I am transgender.
I was worried about how they would deal with a situation where I was presenting as female - would my son be picked on? Would my parents be upset?
I didn't want them to suffer at all because of me and I was afraid they would if I was open about my true gender. So I've kept it from them for 35 years.
The idea of telling them still fills me with fear. I feel like I'm still trying to protect them, but I'm worried I'm wasting my life by not being open.
I had my first transgender feelings aged six. By 12 I started dressing in girl's clothes. But I grew up in a really traditional household and I knew it was not something which would be encouraged.
Then one day my mum walked into my room when I was wearing girls' clothes. We have never spoken about it since, but my parents made it clear they didn't want me to do it again.
The reality is that I have always been transgender, whether I'm dressing or not, and, aged 16, I went out presenting as a woman in public for the first time.
My inner conflict between how I felt and what was expected of me continued, and two years later I got rid of everything material to do with my transgender identity and joined the military.
It was a direct result of me trying to get control of who I was as a person - I wanted to force myself to think I was male and try to be comfortable with that. I was almost trying to kill off my female identity, but I couldn't because it is who I am.
In the military I would have lost my career if someone had found out, so I again kept it hidden.
I struggled as I felt life would be far easier if I wasn't transgender. I was frustrated with myself that I couldn't be that alpha male.
I married Jane* and we had a son, but I couldn't deny my true gender identity and would occasionally seek out dressing services - where I could dress as a woman - before returning to the army base presenting as a man.
Inside I have always identified as being female - so it has been emotionally absolutely draining to present as a man. But to be honest about it felt like I would be imposing it on my family, and threaten the opinion my child had of me as their hero.
I loved Jane, but couldn't tell her I was transgender. I was scared about the idea she might feel betrayed, and confused about what it meant for her in terms of her identity - so I became really deceptive as I had to lie to her almost all the time. I became a very good actor.
In the end it felt like the easiest thing to do was destroy our marriage rather than taking the step to tell her and risk losing it anyway. So I started spending more time out and distanced myself from her and eventually we separated and divorced.
Then I saw friends of mine in the same situation telling their wives or partners, but then remaining married and realised I would need to tell any future partners about my true gender identity to stop myself sabotaging relationships in the future.
Because I have always been attracted to women rather than men I decided I would present as a male in terms of how someone would get to know me. Then, at a very early stage, I would let them know the situation. So they would get to know who I am, but not be in a serious enough relationship that it would be too late for them to end it if they needed.
And that was how it was with my current partner Sandy*. I presented as a male to her initially, but very early on I told her the situation. She saw I was the same person whether I was presenting as a female or not.
She has been really supportive, and came with me when I went to a make-up artist who specialises in transgender clients. Visiting her has given me more confidence in going out presenting as a woman, it has made me more comfortable in myself and confident. I don't feel like I'm walking around with my head down trying to hide. I'm proud of who I am.
I accept now that I am quite simply in the wrong body - there is no choice here.
Now Sandy and I have been together for two years and I present as a woman when Sandy and I are at home together, or on a Friday night when we go out together into town. She knows I'm the same person however I'm dressed and whether I have make-up on or not.
But it is hard because some people haven't been so accepting. So I still don't feel like I'm in a place where socially I can present as a woman all the time.
In my work life I present as a man, I own a business and I know things would be different if I were to transition or some of my clients knew I was transgender.
I am constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for this one thing to come out which I'm worried will ruin all of that.
But there is a very positive side too. I am myself when I'm presenting as Claire, I feel comfortable, I'm not putting on an act for the benefit of other people.
Now when I look at pictures with me presenting as Claire, I and the people around me, always have smiles on our faces. When I'm presenting as a man, I don't look as happy.
That is why I have been taking hormones and am moving towards transitioning medically, even though it is daunting.
At the moment I'm in a comfortable place with myself, I feel like I am in control. But it is exhausting to continue to present as a man, when that is not my actual gender identity, and I don't know how long I can keep that going.
Ultimately it is not my business or job I'm worried about being affected if I were to present as Claire all the time. It is my family.
I still present as male to my son and my parents. My son is in his twenties now, but I'm petrified about what impact it would have upon him and our relationship if they knew I was transgender. The reality is most people take me as I am, but I hate the idea I would impose that overtly onto my family.
My desire to not tell my family is in direct contrast with my happiness. But at some point I need to bite the bullet and do a full transition. I am worried some day I will realise I have wasted my life pretending to be something that I am not.
*All names have been changed