I've seen so many of these pictures shared on social media. It's so cool to see how people have aged. Mostly people are happy with the results and how they've grown.
Until now I've avoided doing something like this for many reasons. Personally I think too many people focus on what trans people used to look like, what they were called etc etc rather than focusing on the most important thing.
How happy they are.
In 2009, the person I was, was very different to the person I am now.
Aside from the obvious, you can see I'm smiling but look at the eyes. I am slightly drunk in this picture, but I was dying on the inside. I was so bloody depressed and felt like I was in life but I had no part in it. I had no say in what was happening to me or my future.
Work was OK (I liked that part), I was a parent and that's still one of the best things to ever happen to me - but the rest was shite. My dad had died aged 57 the summer before. My marriage was failing and looking back I feel sorry for my ex wife. She believed she was marrying someone who happy in themselves. Who knew who he was and what he wanted in life. Kids, settle down and grow old together.
I loved her and I still do - I want her to be happy. I didn't love myself though.
In fact a lot of the time, I loathed myself.
I wished I was something I couldn't be and the amount of energy and inner turmoil I went through hiding that. The shame I felt whenever anything remotely feminine was expressed because I thought people would find me out.
I was so angry at the world because I couldn't be me.
Carrying that around with you the whole time, just eats at you. It becomes a poison. A rotten apple and as with every rotten apple it spreads to other elements of your life and taints them.
A month after this picture was taken, in January 2010 I left my wife. I couldn't do it anymore. The constant battling and arguing, mainly because of my self-hatred and the issues I had going on. I own that.
Yet it still took me over 18 months to come to terms with what I was and live this authentic self.
I always recall the actual night I made the decision to transition - it was Saturday 21st April 2012. I went to see my beloved NUFC play Stoke at home and we won 3-0. I then went out on the town in Newcastle as Debbie. I figured that if I could do it in my home city then I could do it anywhere. For the first time in my life I wasn't wishing I was anything else. People were using she/her pronouns with me. I made the decision that night to transition.
83 days or just over 11 weeks later I was living full time as a woman in a new town, with a new job and I'd left my old life behind.
Leaving my daughter in another town to start a new life was the most difficult thing I will ever do. I still feel massive guilt for doing this. I'm lucky enough that my ex-wife is an incredible woman who encourages us to see as much of each other as we can and I do see her as much as I can. As she's grown, I see her mostly during school holidays now. It's easier for her as it causes less disruption and stress, incredibly important as she gets nearer to GCSE's.
Over the last decade I've lived in 3 geographical areas; started living as Debbie; had everything done I want assistance with (not being graphic); and for the last I would say 2 years (it's almost 3 since I had my surgery) I've felt complete.
I feel like I bring my whole self to every situation I'm in. The friendships I have are more real because I'm more real. Don't get me wrong - some of my best mates from my former life are still in may life and every time I see them we pick up where we left off as we always did.
They see a different me. They see a happy me. The few friends who've met the new me say I seem happier.
You only need to look at the photograph to see the one on the left, the eyes are dead. The one on the right, my eyes are alive.
Each day I wake up and I can express who I am. I don't have to put anymore energy into hiding who or what I am.
I can be me. The whole me.
I honestly catch myself in the mirror sometimes still and I laugh then I cry because I'm so happy. I know now, that if I die tomorrow I'd have at least lived as I always wanted and shown the world and universe who I really was. I have no intentions of dying yet though..... I still have so much to achieve.
Bringing your whole self to your life isn't just magic for you. It has an effect on others. So much so that it lights up yours and their lives.
Now I run 2 support networks online and have helped prevent other LGBTQIA+ people from committing suicide by being there for them. Globally I've helped support LGBTQIA+ families come to terms with the people in their lives who are exploring their sexuality and gender identities.
I'm the co-founder Communi-T of a transgender charity in Bournemouth that supports trans people socially, still doing our online stuff and am a trustee. I was Insurance Leader of the Year at the Woman in Finance Awards in 2017. I've been shortlisted for Role Model of the Year at the 2019 Woman in Insurance Awards.
I'm a presenter on The Exchange on Gaydio - one of the largest LGBT media platforms in the UK. I also produced a documentary on eating disorders as part of Mental Health Awareness Week - link
I'm the author of dreaminisfree a music log reviewing gigs, festivals and interviewing bands and artists.
I've also been featured as a writer in Diva Magazine and blogged for the websites Inclusive Networks and Planet Nation LBQ.
I share this not to brag. In sharing this I want to show you that since living my true self, that I've been able to contribute far more than I ever did before. It's because I'm living my truth and have so much love to give that I do all of this.
I'm going to quote my daughter now ending this article. She was with me about 3 years ago and we were driving around Bournemouth and she said to me as I was going around a roundabout I love Debbie more than I love ....... (old name). I asked her why? She said, "Because you're happy now"..... Yes I cried.
That's the point people.
You can't be happy unless you're living authentically.