Hi, I’m Jez and I’m a trans guy.

Until nine years ago I was a woman by the name of Julia. I was born female but from the age of six, I knew I was a boy.

I am a mother of two grown-up sons and whatever happens I am still their mum. Male or female, I gave birth to those boys and I cannot and do not want to change that. My boys are the best thing that came out of my pre-existence.

Nine years ago after a lifetime of denial, hiding, trying to do what was right, making the best of it and fighting a never-ending battle with depression caused by gender dysphoria I began living as a man. Two years ago next month the formal and medical process of transition began.

Living as a man was not enough to erase the reality: I was in the wrong body. Just typing my old name for this piece triggered a day of head-reeling dysphoria to the extent I had to stop writing and focus on other things.

Gender dysphoria is indiscriminate and can hit anyone at any time. For me, it led to periods of extreme self-hatred and self-destruction all wrapped up in depression. I wouldn’t go out, I was self-harming and on a few occasions I have considered or attempted suicide. Any time I sought help I was told there was nothing to be done and to make the best of life. How can one make the best of life when they are a prisoner and there is no release date?

So where am I at right now? I am a little over a week from what we call top surgery, which is chest reconstruction. The nerves are beginning to kick in as they would for anyone facing major surgery. For over 30 years this has been the big thing that has caused my gender dysphoria. It is my chest that marks me out as having a female body. So along with the nerves I have to remember that life after top surgery will not suddenly be ribbons and rainbows. It is life-changing surgery and keeping logical thought is important. I am focusing on my work as a writer as it has always helped me stay in touch with myself in the past and it is doing so now.

Preparing my mind and body for surgery is vital. Due to testosterone therapy my body is in effect in male puberty so doing all sorts of strange things but this time the growing pains are in all the right places. I have more energy which I channel into weight training and bike riding. Most importantly I am again cutting out cigarettes, I don’t say giving up as that sets me up to fail.

I am mentally and physically ready but emotionally I don’t think it’s possible. I am saying goodbye to the person who got me this far. I knew this would be the case. I’m not sad but it is like saying goodbye to an old friend. In all honesty she hasn’t been around for a good few years now so the time is right.

Transgender in Swindon

I became the organiser of Swindon Transgender Group in 2013. We are a support group for anyone who identifies as transgender or is questioning their gender. The peer support the group has given me as a trans man has been invaluable. We are there for anyone transgender and their supportive family and friends. STG is the oldest group of its kind in the UK, founded some 26 years ago out of the need for transgender people to come together and be safe. Discretion and confidentiality is the key for us and safety is paramount.

Times are changing and there is more equality in all aspects of life. However, the transgender community is still one of the most marginalised and discriminated against in our society. It is in light of this that TransSwindon came into existence. It is an activist group which provides advocacy and support for transgender people living in Swindon and further afield.

In the beginning I questioned the need for this level of activity in a town like Swindon and then I read the stats. Up to one in every 100 people question their gender at some point in life. With a population over 250,000, a little maths reveals there is 2500+ people in Swindon who may need support. More stats show 90% of transgender people never reveal or ‘come out’ for whatever reason.

The latest stats for suicide awareness show that 48% of transgender youths have attempted suicide by 25 years of age. I am one of that 48%. However with support from family, friends, professionals and society that 48% can be reduced by 93%. This is what inspires me - and my colleagues at TransSwindon - to be more open, and go public about my own transition.

For more details about TransSwindon and Swindon Transgender Group go to transswindon.wordpress.com and swindon-tg-group.yolasite.com.

Information is available at gires.org.uk.