Stevenage dad living as transgender woman hopes her story will help others
- Credit: Archant
A father who came out as a transgender woman at the age of 63 has written about her experience in a bid to empower others to have the courage to follow their dreams.
Raychel Paterson, who lives in Stevenage, says she knew something wasn’t right when she was just nine years old, but in the 1960s being born in the wrong body was a concept still in its infancy.
It wasn’t until 2017, when Raychel was 63, that she fully realised she identified as a woman and began living as one. “Living as male just felt numb,” she explained.
In a compilation book, The Girls Who Refused to Quit (Volume 2), in which each chapter explores the real-life journey of an inspirational woman who has overcome adversity, Raychel describes the moment she told her wife she was transgender. She writes: “‘No! I’m not gay, I’m transgender!’ I was sitting at the kitchen table, shaking with the realisation of what I’d just admitted to, and yes, I felt an internal excitement that I’d done it. It was finally out in the open. But could I move on now, at last?
“No sooner had the words left my mouth than I felt a crushing sense of impending doom. I wanted to take it back; it wasn’t the right time to tell her.
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“My partner’s impenetrable expression told me everything I needed to know. Now I knew, without yet comprehending how, that my life would never be the same again.”
Raychel went to stay with two friends, partners Alice and Mary, who were both transitioning. She borrowed some make-up, a wig and some feminine clothes and stood in front of a mirror to meet Raychel for the first time.
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“Each change of clothing brought a sense of peace and relief,” she said. “This wasn’t just an exercise in cross-dressing, it was so much more than that.”
Raychel says that aside from misgendering when she spoke with a deep masculine voice, she has been lucky not to have come up against major obstacles during her transition.
Her children, who are all adults, have shown “growing acceptance” of her female identity and this is now shared with a new generation of her family.
Raychel, a former security guard at Stevenage-based missiles manufacturer MBDA, has spoken to her GP about referral to a gender identity clinic for gender reassignment surgery, but at 66 is concerned her age will go against her. She says she hopes she hasn’t left it too late after all the misery she’d “known and kept hidden behind a mask of compliance and servitude, from the bullies at school to military service, tormenting [herself] with a lifestyle [she’d] hated”.
Raychel is working to improve her once shaken confidence and says that while the transition journey is hard work, it is totally worth it.
Having lacked friends to confide in before coming out as transgender, happily she has since made many new friends who are a constant source of support.
Raychel is now keen to support others who are facing adversity, which is why she has told her story in The Girls Who Refused to Quit (Volume 2).
The 16 women featured in the book have all found the courage to rise from the depths of despair and the strength to never give up.
Raychel explained: “All the stories in the book are unique and cover a multitude of different experiences, ranging from loss of family to mental and physical abuse, to living with dementia and even tinnitus.”
Raychel is determined, through sharing her own experiences, to inspire others to take assertive action to live their best lives.
She writes: “If I could go back in time and speak to my younger self, this is what I’d say to her: The journey is hard, but it is worth it, however long it takes for you to achieve it.
“For you to walk out of your own front door with your head held high and a swagger in your step, just being yourself, it’s such a wonderful freeing feeling. You are stronger than you believe.
“There is a huge world of endless possibilities just waiting for you and you deserve so much to be a part of it. Now is the time to learn how to be true and to love yourself. Don’t waste any more precious time.”
The writing experience has also prompted Raychel to write her own memoirs, which she is aiming to publish within 18 months.
The Girls Who Refused to Quit (Volume 2) is available from Amazon, priced £9.99 for a paperback, with a Kindle edition also available. You can also buy the paperback from bookshops including Waterstones.