Dawn’s Transgender Story
Most of the time Dawn lives as a man using a male name. However, she considers herself to be transgender.
Dawn, who works as an occupational health nurse on an oil platform, describes growing up as a boy who liked to dress in girls’ clothes. She hid that part of her identity when she was in the Air Force, but in recent years she’s become more open about her feminine side.
“As far back as infant school I remember playing with dolls and dressing in my sister’s clothes. I also remember feeling upset that girls wore skirts and boys didn’t.
“When I was about 10 or 11, I used to escape through the bedroom window at night and walk around town in girls’ clothes. Once, I got caught by the police and taken home. My mother then took me to see a psychologist.
“I think we saw the psychologist two or three times. At one stage, he asked me: ‘Do you want to be a girl?’ My parents were sitting with me, so I gave an answer they wanted to hear rather than the truthful answer. Looking back, I think if they hadn’t been there, things might have been different.
“After that, I kept that side of me hidden even more because it upset my parents. I kept myself as busy as possible at home, but the feelings never went away.
“I chose the name Dawn when I was about 12 years old. I wanted to be ‘me’, and my given male name didn’t have a female version. I thought for a long time before settling on Dawn.
“Dawn has many meanings: the start of a new day, or a realisation. But I chose it mainly because I like the name, and the few people I knew who were called Dawn seemed like nice people.
“I lived in a small town in Wiltshire with few job prospects, so when I was 16 I joined the Air Force. I became an aircraft mechanic for a short time before switching to nursing. That’s what I’ve done ever since.
“Back then, being trans in the Air Force was a big problem, so I kept it hidden. I found out about trans groups through other people and from newspaper articles. In the 1970s and 1980s there wasn’t much publicity, so you heard about it from agony aunts such as Clare Rayner and Marje Proops.
“While I was still in the Air Force, I visited trans groups in Bristol and London. It was an opportunity to meet like-minded people and to realise that I wasn’t alone.”
Meeting my partner, Jules
“In 1985 I moved to London and left the Air Force. It was the first time I’d lived completely on my own. As I was away from family and friends, I seriously considered transitioning [living full-time as a woman]. For nearly one year I dressed as a woman except when I was at work.
“Then I met Jules, my partner, an absolutely wonderful woman. I decided that my priority was to stay with her rather than transition.
“Shortly after we started going out together, we moved to the coast. Cornwall, our new home, was very different from London, and I hid my trans side initially.
“Only in recent years have we started being more open. I dress in women’s clothes maybe once or twice a week when I’m at home, and when Jules and I go to National Trust places, to the cinema or for dinner. But we generally do it away from our home town so that people who know us won’t see us.
“My two sisters know that I’m trans. My parents don’t know, or if they do know they haven’t said anything about it. Jules’ parents know. She told them when we first started dating, and I’ve been out with them dressed in women’s clothes.
“We try to tell people only if they need to know, but I don’t like hiding it. l’d like everyone to know and not worry about it, but Jules would rather keep it a bit quieter.”
Being found out at work
“Recently I was found out at work. I’m a nurse on an oil platform, and I was moving to another platform. Somebody emptied my locker for me and sent the contents to the next platform. People on my new platform also saw photographs of me on the internet.
“It was quite upsetting when I got a phone call warning me to be careful at work because all this information was out.
“I was expecting ridicule, abuse and possibly discrimination from the management team, but it was the total opposite. The management team supported me 100%, and the people who made a big fuss about it were taken off the platform.
“Being accepted at work was a humbling experience. My work colleagues’ support and relaxed attitude has made me feel valued and wanted.
“I don’t tell people that I’m trans. It doesn’t come up in conversation, and it’s not important to my work, but I don’t have to keep it a secret any more.
“Being a transgender person isn’t easy, although I’ve had an easier time than most people. I’ve had a lot of frustration. I’ve had to keep my feminine side secret, and I try to conform to what society expects. But now that I’m older, I feel more confident about my gender identity.
“I like to think that having a strong feminine side has helped me to help other people, which is good for my nursing. It possibly gives me a more caring nature. But as I’ve always been trans, I have nothing to compare it against.
“I know that if I were given the option, I wouldn’t like to lose the feminine side of my life. I wouldn’t be me.”