First person: 'I used to be a man'

Kate Craig-Wood, 31

I was unhappy from the start of puberty. My sister was developing one way, and I another. This was the point when our fundamental differences became apparent, and it was quite distressing. I'd never talked to anyone about wanting to be a girl. I was terribly embarrassed. The only representation in the media was laughable images of men wearing dresses, which I couldn't relate to. I did want to look pretty like my sister, but it was more about interacting with society as a girl, being accepted as such.

During my teenage years I became quite emotionless, functioning as a machine, trying not to reveal my soft emotional side. I was terrified of people finding out. I even got married, and it was only four years ago that I made the decision to change my life. In early 2005, I started counselling with the aim of "fixing" the problem, but it became apparent that I couldn't. I was driven to depression, which destroyed my marriage. Then I found a website (gires.org.uk) about being transgender, which led me to facial feminising surgery, and this was the key. Here were women, looking like women, who had in fact been born male.

This was the ray of hope that could allow me to become a woman in every respect. Even though it's the whole package – inside and out – that counts, in the first instance what's going on from the neck upwards is truly important. Once I'd found out about the surgery, there was no turning back.

Soon after, I told my mum how I felt. She was shocked; she'd never suspected. I was worried about my parents finding out, so I'd gone out of my way to be the good son, doing boys' things. She was scared of the dangerous operations, of me destroying my life. But most of all, that I'd end up alone. It wasn't until she met my first boyfriend, and saw how much happier I was, that she realised she didn't have to worry.

The operations were a risk, and it took me just over a year to become the way I am. It's been more than two years that I've lived as a woman and it has transformed my life.

I work in IT, and since becoming more attractive in a short space of time, I've become aware that it's an industry within which there is still a lot of sexism. I've realised that as my hair gets blonder and my breasts get bigger, the less seriously guys take me on technical topics. This is affirming, and blooming irritating. But because I've had a unique experience, I can help change attitudes. I recently did the world's first sky-dive past Mount Everest to raise money for computer clubs for girls. And winning the award in 2008 for Most Inspirational Businesswoman was doubly affirming: for business success, and the recognition that being transsexual is an innate condition.

I've been tremendously advantaged: I was bought up as a boy, socialised as a boy and encouraged to do boys' things. I've become a very technically competent person as a result. What you excel at is a result of how you're treated. After all, my brain has always been female.

firstperson@independent.co.uk

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