Ever since she was a small child, Julia had known she was a boy... but it is only now, at the age of 48, that she will finally say goodbye to her female body. MARION SAUVEBOIS reports

EIGHT years ago Julia finally mustered the courage to live as Jem, the man she always knew she was, despite being trapped in a female body.

Carrying on with the charade and suppressing his true identity to fit into a gender role dictated by society would have driven him to attempt suicide – once more.

At the age of 40, he changed his first name to Jem, an old nickname, allowed the once cumbersome facial hair he had carefully hidden as a woman to grow and let go of the guilt and shame that had guided his every move and decision since childhood.

“I went through long periods of self-hatred,” said the 48-year-old freelance writer, who co-ordinates transgender support charity Swindon TG Group.

“I looked in the mirror and wondered who that person was. You never feel like you fit in and you always have to hide.

“I dressed as a man occasionally and I felt like I was being me. But then you feel bad because you think you shouldn’t be doing it. So you get depressed. That’s gender dysphoria in a nutshell.

“I locked myself up for two years. It was change or die.”

He formally changed his first name to Jeremy Farmer in April last year.

“I went by the name of Jem until early last year when I started formal transition and a more masculine name I could live with was needed.”

Jeremy was six years old when he realised he was really a boy in a little girl’s body.

Of course, at the time he had never heard of the terms transgender or transsexual and would not meet anyone else in his predicament for years.

Afraid to disappoint his mother and spark further arguments, he put up with the white princess dresses his mother never failed to put him in.

“I wanted a train set, not dollies and I kept saying ‘I know I’m a boy’. I was acting like a boy and I was referring to myself as a boy.

“But I buried it. As a child you learn when you’re not pleasing your parents. So I stopped with the comments. I blocked it out.”

The shock of growing breasts as an adolescent was more than he could bear and he became filled with self-loathing. He even got into the habit or pricking them with pins in the naive hope they would somehow deflate.

“I had convinced myself I would start to grown man bits. I was very young and very naive. I have a 44D chest. I felt that God hated me. I wear binding around my breasts now. It takes six inches off my chest.”

The self-harming ended but the shame and hatred would pursue Jeremy throughout his life – that is until he took the life-changing decision to simply accept himself.

After a failed marriage, which nevertheless gave him the two most important people in his life – his sons – 25-year-old Jeremy met a woman and led life as a self-described ‘butch lesbian’.

For the first time in his life, he felt as though his difference was accepted, understood and even welcomed.

“I was a lesbian for a long time but I’m attracted to men now. I wore more butch clothing and allowed the beard to come through. I didn’t have the words for what I was until I was about 30. At the time I was a butch lesbian. I could cope with that label.”

But no one was fooled by Jeremy’s desperate efforts to hide and conform.

Before passing away 13 years ago, his partner made him swear to be true to himself.

Later, when his grandmother was on her deathbed, she urged him to stop living a lie. He was left hurt and bewildered.

“I thought I was I was trying to protect them all from what I was. I felt guilty. It was awful. I was not coping. I was pushing things away. But it wasn’t my fault. I was born this way. I didn’t make a choice. When you finally realise that everything falls into place.”

Jeremy will soon undergo gender reassignment surgery. He is receiving hormone therapy and in spring will have a chest reconstruction, hysterectomy and vaginectomy. He will then receive repeated procedures to construct male genitals – gruelling operations spread over two years.

The decision to go all the way was not an easy one and in fact, for months, Jeremy was led to believe that it would never be possible through a GP.

But after reading an autobiography by Chaz Bono, singer Cher’s son, who received gender reassignment surgery, he realised his doctor had been wrong and that there was a chance for him too.

While his sons have been very accepting (“They are from a different generation”), as has his dad, his mother refuses to address him as Jeremy.

“When I told my dad he said ‘I have three sons now’. But I avoided telling my mum.

“We were meeting at Birmingham Station and she walked past me twice. She didn’t recognise me. I needed it to be a shock when she saw. I had told her before we met in Birmingham that I was transgender and what it all meant.

“Initially she seemed supportive. But I got what I expected anyway. She used my birth name and she referred to me as her daughter. She was and still is in denial. She doesn’t understand.

"My mum is quite religious. It took a long time to finally accept she won’t ever fully accept me.”

The prospect of major surgery was also daunting, and weighed heavily on his decision.

“It’s major surgery and there is an amount of risk. It’s going to hurt like hell and I’m afraid of that. But I will be able to be me. I feel ready.”

To find out more about Swindon TG Group go to swindon-tg-group.yolasite.com or email swindon_tg_group@yahoo.co.uk

Jeremy’s blog is available on jeremytheboypoet.wordpress.com