As I introduced my girlfriend Ashleigh to my school friends and we laughed and joked about old times, one of my friends shook her head.
‘You’re so different now,’ she commented. ‘You just seemed so… sad in school.’
I paused and thought back to my teenage self. She was right – in more ways than one. Yes, I had been sad back in school. And I couldn’t have been more different. I was now a completely new person. Quite literally.
A beautiful – and rather sexy, I have to add – butterfly having emerged from their cocoon, I liked to say.
I was born a girl – Samantha – and presented that way for the first part of my life. I was raised by my mum and didn’t have the easiest childhood.
Yet, there was something else. Something I could never quite put my finger on. I just didn’t feel comfortable with myself. I couldn’t get my style right, or my hair. And I hated it when I went through puberty and developed boobs and hips.
‘I want a beard,’ I announced to Mum one day as a child. ‘I think it would look cool.’
I knew some lovely people, had friends, even boyfriends. But looking back, I wasn’t as bonded to them as I could have been. It wasn’t a problem with them. It was me.
I went to university to study forensic anthropology and it was then I realised – and accepted – I was more attracted to women than men.
I embarked on my first relationships with females, but even then, I joked about wanting a penis, to be a man. Back then, it went no further than joking. It couldn’t. Because of course, the women I was in relationships with were lesbians – they wanted to be with a woman. Also, at that point, I didn’t fully understand transitioning.
Then, in January 2019, after being single for five months, I went on Tinder and met Ashleigh. She was totally fit – I couldn’t believe it when she swiped right on me.
When we met – going out for a Chinese meal, playing pool, then talking until 3am – she turned out to be the most intelligent, caring, warm human being I’d ever met. I was even more convinced she was out of my league.
She told me she identified as bisexual and her last relationship had been with a man. And I joked once more that that was what I wanted to be.
The more dates we went on, the more she made me smile and laugh. She felt like home, that’s the only way I can describe it.
After six months, we moved in together and I’d literally never felt happier. In my relationship, that is. There was still something – something about me – that didn’t feel right.
I’d wear jeans, T-shirts, even the odd dress, but I never stopped to look at myself in the mirror. It just didn’t feel comfortable.
In January 2020, after doing a lot of work on myself, I accepted what I think I’d known for a long time. I wanted to transition. To live life as a man.
The first person I had to tell was Ashleigh. I knew that it might spell the end of our relationship and although that thought devastated me, it just had to be done.
But instead of breaking up with me, she just gave me a huge hug. ‘I’m not surprised,’ she told me. ‘Let’s just see how it goes.’ I felt a massive wave of relief. Having her support meant everything.
Knowing of the long waiting lists, I went to my GP straight away for a referral. And I started making those initial changes – giving Ashleigh the first pick of my dresses before donating the rest to charity, stocking up on cotton shirts and jeans.
Ashleigh joked that my new wardrobe was that of a teenage boy, and she may be right. I think I’m living out the adolescent years I missed out on.
‘Your walk is even different,’ a friend commented at the time. It was. More confident.
By October 2020 and having received no news from the NHS, I decided I didn’t want to waste any more time. I made a private appointment to start hormone treatment.
I started using gel, which I have to admit was a pain in the backside – having to cover up for 12 hours afterwards so that no one else touches it – but it was totally worth it. Because within six months, my face started to change shape, my voice became deeper, my hair thicker.
And, there was something else I needed to do too. Tackle my weight.
It was something else I’d never felt comfortable with, ever since I was a teenager. But as I’d got into a relationship with Ashleigh, then as we’d gone into lockdown, it had spiralled out of control. We’d lived on takeaways and treated ourselves to chocolate.
And the weight wasn’t just about being healthier, or looking better. It would also help my transition. Fat produces oestrogen in the body, which would keep my figure feminine.
I also wanted top surgery as part of my transition, which would be more risky the heavier I was.
In May 2021, a friend told me about The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan, which, replacing all food with the company’s products, did seem extreme at first. But I needed something drastic – something to break my relationship with food completely, then allow me to rebuild it gradually.
And that’s what it did. It was hard and there were days I struggled, especially at the beginning. But it was worth it. Over 18 months, I lost six and a half stone and Ashleigh, who’d done it with me, lost four and a half stone. We were both delighted.
Now I’m living as a man, Sam, and for the first time in my life, I look at myself and think, ‘Yes, that’s me. That’s who I’m meant to be.’
Everyone around me has been so supportive and loving about my transition – even though some of them could barely believe their eyes when they saw me for the first time after lockdown!
My step-father invited me to be a groomsman at his wedding, where I got to wear a rather snazzy tailored suit. ‘Hello son,’ he greeted me on the day and I thought my heart would burst.
And when my dad, who lives in France, saw me for the first time face-to-face after 18 months of video calls, he got emotional. ‘I’m just so relieved to see you looking so much happier,’ he told me.
Even my grandparents – who no-one had mentioned anything to and no doubt got a real shock when they saw me – when they realised what had happened, were careful to use the right pronouns and call me Sam.
I know not everyone is so lucky and I feel so blessed to have such wonderful people surrounding me.
Ashleigh and I are still together – in fact, we got engaged last November. I still can’t believe I met such an amazing woman to love me for the person I actually am.
But most importantly, for the first time, I love and accept myself. And that’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to say.
For more information, visit: one2onediet.com
As told to Sarah Whiteley
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