(Crawley Observer) FORTY-eight-year-old Kirsty Cass has had come to terms with the fact that she has gender dysphoria, a feeling of belonging to the wrong gender. Obby reporter Laura Chase talks to her about her journey.

Kirsty was born a male, but was aware that something was not quite right early on in her childhood.

She explained: “I had started feeling different at the age of five or six. I preferred the company of other girls and I used to hang out with them. As I got older I got to that age where I should have taken a liking to girls, but I didn’t get it, it just didn’t interest me.

“In PE lessons I would be changing and I hated it. Then at 15 or 16 I started to grow a breast and I had a mastectomy which removed all the breast there, which is bad news for me now and something I really regret.”

At 19 years old Kirsty felt different from her peers and uncertain about her identity. It was at this point where she found that she could not cope any more and tried to take her own life.

She said: “One night I took an overdose. I woke up in the early hours of morning and I had a bad ringing in my ears.

“I had left a suicide note and my family had spent time looking for me while I was in hospital. They spent two days searching for me and didn’t know whether I was alive or dead. It sounds awful but I didn’t want to talk to them at the time.

“I was meant to go to Charing Cross Hospital, a specialist for people with gender dysphoria, but because I didn’t know about it I got nervous and pulled the plug.”

Kirsty started drinking everyday in a struggle to find out who she was and one night she admitted to going to far.

She explained: “Two years ago I was so drunk that I got a Stanley knife and tried to cut off my genitalia. It has always be foreign to me, it repulses me actually. I just remember thinking – what have I done.”

This incident was the real turning point for Kirsty. She was referred to Charing Cross Hospital for the second time and received the help that she needed.

She said: “They really helped me and I have got over all my troubles now and I am looking forward to having gender reconstruction surgery which will be absolutely fantastic.”

Kirsty’s name is official and was no longer Andy as of April 6 2010.

She said: “Inside it’s still me, I’m still the fun loving person. It’s only the outside that has changed.

“When I came out I lost a lot of friends who I thought were really good friends, but my real life long friends have stuck by me.”

Kirsty’s friends and family have had a mixed reaction to the fact she is transgender.

She explained: “The heart breaking thing is that a couple of my brothers haven’t spoken to me since I’ve come out. One of my brothers is fine and my dad is a dream. He asked me whether that explained why I was so unhappy and why I didn’t ask him for help, but I didn’t know what to say or how to go about it. It is so different these day. I thought I was the only one suffering and I was the only one like this.”

When Kirsty bagged up eight full bags of her male clothes and took them to the recycling banks she knew her life had changed forever.

“It was a lot of money wasted but one the things that made the change in my life real. The last 12 months I have been living a dream. I am comfortable with who I am and what I am, I am much more confident.

“People say to me you were so nervous, it was real tough trying to be someone your not. I was drinking a lot and it was affecting my work. And you know things are bad when you get up at four in the morning because you need a drink. You know there’s something wrong with you.”

Kirsty works for in amenity services at Crawley Borough Council who she thinks have been fantastic.

She said: “It was the best day of my life when I came out. It happened so quick as soon as work found out they summoned me up to HR but I went home walking on air that day. I was going to work as Kirsty. A load had been lifted off my shoulders. A couple of people wouldn’t talk to me after that, but it’s just because they didn’t know how to deal with me.”

One of the biggest reasons that Kirsty wants to tell her story is to raise awareness so that people do not have to suffer as she did.

She said: “There’s a lot of people who need help and go through things like this. There’s nothing better than talking to someone who has gone through it. I bet there are a lot of people out there who can’t cope and bottle it up. I want to try and help that.

“I had two roads I could go down and the road I was taking was not a good one, full of drink and destruction. I just thought I have to do something about this and that I needed to change paths, so that is what I did.”

Kirsty is looking for someone to help publish a book of her story so that it can help others who do not know what to do.

She would also like to donate all proceeds of a future book to the Katie Piper’s Foundation, as it was Katie’s story who inspired Kirsty to tell her own.

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