Natural health, beauty and fashion

How I became Jessica

The Single Letter That Changed my Life

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Hi. I’m Jessica Winters. I’m a software developer, a musician, photographer and mother. But I haven’t always been any of those things. It’s taken me a long time to get where I am, and it’s been a very difficult journey, but I’m proud to be here.

 

It seems a bit cliche to start on the day of my birth, but that’s where it all went a bit wrong really. See, I respect the NHS a lot, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, but sometimes, rarely, they’ll get something wrong, and in this case, it turned out to be a small mistake, a single letter actually, but it would be one that would change the rest of my life, and cause me a lot of problems going forward

They put an M on the ‘gender’ field.

I don’t blame them, to be honest, I certainly looked like an ‘M’, in all the ways they check for, and so, that’s who I became. I was given dinosaurs and cars and blue clothes and games consoles growing up, I was told I was turning out to be a ‘handsome young man’ and I was expected to have girlfriends and watch football with the lads.

 

It might not sound so bad, growing up as a boy, there’s certainly a lot of advantages. I had my first computer in the mid 90s from a very young age, and I was encouraged to use it, I could play videogames with my friends, and when I started to struggle in school, I got all the help I need.

I had a friend in school about the same age. She had a lot of similar problems, and similar likes, and she didn’t get the help she needed. She was ‘weird’ for liking games and maths and computers. Because of that she was not helped, but pushed to do subjects she had no passion for. I don’t know where she is now, but I hope she’s doing what she loves.

 

In fairness, I went to a very conservative school, strict roman catholic in the early 90’s. Things were different then. Casual homophobia was not just in your daily life, but on TV and the radio too. Remember here, I’m still pretty convinced I’m a boy. And I started noticing the other boys at school. I hit male puberty at a shockingly early 8 years old, and with it brought a whole set of confusing emotions and physical changes. I’m at a catholic school, so I had no real idea what was going on other than schoolyard rumours.

I didn’t know what my feelings were for the other boys, I just knew they were shameful to have. I wanted nothing more than to be like the girls in school, I was jealous of the clothes they wore, I was jealous of the toys they had, and of course that they were allowed to kiss boys. I would often ‘pretend’ to be a girl in my bedroom at home, sometimes just sitting in bed, imagining my life if it was different, stealing my mums makeup (and not actually using it), wearing my bedsheet as a ‘dress’. It’s all a bit obvious in hindsight, but I had no idea that this was a possibility. I’d cry knowing I would never be a woman.

 

Puberty hit hard by the time I was 9. As did the bullying, the difficult emotions, and the abuse at home. This is when I first self harmed. Things were not good for a long time. I moved schools several times, my mum divorced my stepdad, we moved cities, I started highschool, and my first sibling was born. There is a lot that happened between my ages 9 to 13, but that’s for another story.

13 is when things got strange. I know that sounds silly because my life has hardly been ‘normal’ up to now, but it really is when things started, and didn’t stop. I started having girlfriends as well as boyfriends, and I realised that made me bisexual. Although the word wasn’t quite in my vocabulary yet, I understood more who I was. I hid my boyfriends of course, taking after school classes together so we could sneak kisses in the deserted halls in the evening, or hold hands through the park on the way home.

At age 14, I started really getting into the ‘emo’ scene, and I had a few friends in there. Being a bit of a social outcast it was a fit, and I could express myself femininely and it was a bit more socially acceptable.

It was this time when I had my first experience of “passing”, that is, someone seeing me as a woman. At the time I was very thin, with large hips and long hair. We were also in a dark room which probably helped. It took a while for the person to correct themselves, but let me tell you. Nothing can compare to the 10 minutes I was seen as a woman. It put me in an incredible mood for a week after. I sought that experience for a long time after, but school got in the way and I gave up after a few months. I still had no idea what those feelings were, other than I wanted more.

 

I started playing online games where I could have a feminine name, and people would refer to me by it. It’s funny really, as my old name was already pretty feminine, I just associated it so much with maleness that it became something I hated.

 

At age 16, I tried to take my own life. I took random pills I found around the house, and drank a bunch of alcohol in the cupboards. I soon realised my mistake and called an ambulance on myself. I spent the evening in hospital. My dad looked through all my messages to friends, and found out about my sexual experiences with men. He chastised me for being ‘gay’ and at a family event, made fun of me for not even managing to kill myself properly.

 

I met a girl, and moved out shortly after. I was 16 and it was hard. I had no job, no friends and I dropped out of college. Moving out was a very tough time for me, but again, that’s for another time.

 

At 18, while a bit tipsy, my friend Rachel put a dress on me as a “joke”, just to see how I looked in it. My heart raced, and I got to see myself. Still very much looking like a guy, but in a dress. Something I’d envy other girls wearing my whole life. 18 years I waited for this moment, and I was laughed at (with?) and then it came off.

20 years old. And I got married. I married the girl I moved out with. I wore a suit, I was taken to be a husband. We had a child. I Fathered a child. We called her Amelia, and she’s growing up to be an incredible young woman herself.

 

Unfortunately, with a child come complications, and my marriage ended when I was 21. It was a tough time, and so I threw myself into my work.

It was about this time when I had one of my first experiences with a trans person. A recently out trans woman by the name of Laura. You could tell she was trans at that time, but seeing her presenting herself the way she wanted, was amazing. When I was with her, she faced some harassment, abusive text messages, but the venue we were at, and all our friends came to her support. It was nice to see. I didn’t know this was what trans people were. I didn’t know she just longed to be seen as a woman, to live her life normally. Her being trans never came up, other than a ‘warning’ before we met, where she said her appearance might shock me. It didn’t.

 

A year later, I saw a post online, something about what trans women really are. I wish I could find the actual post, but it read something like:
“If you always wanted to be a woman. You are. It’s okay to be trans, and nobody can define who you are, better than you.”

 

And so then I realised that was me. I realised I could transition, I could wear dresses and be called “she” and live my life the way I’d imagined it since as early as I could remember. I realised that made me a woman. I came out to my girlfriend, Rachel. The same Rachel that put me in a dress 10 years ago. Rachel took it as well as you would expect. Many tears were shed, there were many questions and we were close to breaking up. Rachel is bi, so that wasn’t the issue as such, but it’s a huge change, and I certainly don’t blame her for thinking she couldn’t deal with it. I know I couldn’t.

 

Regardless, Rachel was incredible. It took some time for me to get comfortable with presenting female in any way, but she stuck with me. Taught me makeup, and I first presented as a woman at Halloween 2016. It was in front of trusted friends, and I cried a lot. I cried from happiness. I cried because I couldn’t be “normal”. And I cried because I got very drunk. Those early days of being out were hard. At one point, I stood in the middle of the road at 2AM, hoping a car would hit me.

 

Being out is hard. Especially in the early times. I changed my name in November 2016. That means I’ve been Jessica Winters for nearly 2 years! My life for a year after was constant “Oh you’re not Jessica!” when getting in a taxi. Questions when showing my ID, or asking who I was, when signing for a package. In July 2017 I started taking hormones. Testosterone is a hell of a thing, and my brain doesn’t like it. I can tell you this, because a few weeks after taking hormones suddenly I felt amazing. I worked better, my mood was improved, everyone could see how much happier I was. Hormones have physical effects too. I started growing breasts, my face softened, my hairline came back, and every touch on my body felt different. My emotions are far more nuanced and I don’t feel angry all the time. I highly recommend estrogen!

For most of my transition, I worked from home. I didn’t want people to see me in the ‘awkward’ androgynous phase, when I was still learning makeup, and what clothes fit. But in late 2017, I started to look for full-time work. I trained my voice to what you’re hearing now, and in December, I got a job offer. My first job as Jessica. At this point, the only things left to change are my passport and that 26 year old mistake, my birth certificate.

 

And here I am now. In my daily life, being trans doesn’t affect me in any meaningful way. I take tablets every morning, and have appointments every few months. In the future I’ll have surgery, and I can’t marry my fiancée until I have my birth certificate amended, but for the most part. I’m me. Strangers don’t know I’m trans until I tell them, nobody knows what’s in my pants, and to be fair, nobody should care.

 

I lived as a man for 24 years, but did I realy? Do men long for a life as a woman, do men look enviously at womens clothes and hope for their voices and bodies? I never was male, despite what my birth certificate says, despite what genitals I was born with. It’s clear enough now.

 

When I was invited to do this talk, I had a different subject in mind. I wanted to talk about my experiences as a woman in general. The differences in my daily life now that people see me as a woman, but I realised that most of you here already know these things. I’m preaching to the choir. Of course you’ve had people telling you to have kids before it’s “too late”, and I bet most of you take safety measures when out at night. Many of you in male dominated fields have had to struggle to get to where you are, and my previous appearance definitely gave me an advantage in that way. But now I struggle all the same. It’s been a culture shock for sure. But it’s worth it.

 

I only touched on this, but one of the main difficulties with being transgender is a thing called Gender Dysphoria. It’s a sort of depression, at your body not matching your brain, or your brain not getting the correct chemicals. We’re still not entirely sure what causes it, but it is an intensely negative feeling. It’s driven friends of mine to suicide, and nearly myself.

My dysphoria is better these days, but it still occurs. I still have moments of seeing a guy when I look in the mirror, I get that painful reminder every morning when I have to shave my face, every time I cough and my voice drops.

But I’m happier. Happier than I ever have been. And I’m still here. Here for my Daughter, and my Fiancée. And I’m here for all of you. To share my story with you, and hopefully now you understand trans people better. What we’ve gone through, and how much we desire to just fit in and be accepted.

 

There was a recent march at London Pride, led by a group of people who hate trans women. Calling us abusers, men in drag, and implying we’re invading women’s spaces.

 

But that’s the thing. Trans women are women, it’s just a descriptor, like a gay woman, or a tall woman. It just describes an aspect of us, but not one that strips us of our femininity.

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