Stevenage woman speaks openly about what it’s like to be born in the wrong body ahead of gender reassignment surgery

Sam Wood has left her life as Richard behind her.

Sam Wood has left her life as Richard behind her. - Credit: Archant

A former policeman living in Stevenage is set to undergo gender reassignment surgery tomorrow and start a new life as a woman, after she says she was born in the wrong body.

Good Neighbour of the Year Samantha Wood (centre) with fellow finalists, host David Croft, and Paul

Good Neighbour of the Year Samantha Wood (centre) with fellow finalists, host David Croft, and Paul Davies from sponsors Hamilton Davies. Picture: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

Samantha Wood began her life as Richard, but was just 15 when she began cross-dressing as a girl and became increasingly unhappy living as a boy.

Sam Wood has left her life as Richard behind her.

Sam Wood has left her life as Richard behind her. - Credit: Archant

She spent many years trying to suppress her urge to be female, choosing a career as a riot police officer in London and going regularly to the gym to lift weights in a bid to be macho.

Sam Wood

Sam Wood - Credit: Archant

The 43-year-old has had various relationships with women, and even got married – a union which lasted just 11 weeks – and has fathered three children.

Sam – who last month was crowned Good Neighbour of the Year at the Comet Community Awards, where she was also a finalist for her work with the Give Back to Stevenage community group, said: “Cross-dressing happened throughout most of my relationships, with or without consent.

“It was a controllable thing and, however hard my day had been, it was a release and I felt calm and relaxed. I thought at the time it was a phase.

“I’d spend half-an-hour or an hour at home dressed as a woman and I felt like a completely different person.

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“I did try sneaking out a couple of times. I went out with a huge parka jacket over my clothes. I was just scared and it didn’t last.

“I’d get half-a-mile from my house and run back. It was hard.”

Sam was deeply unhappy and sunk into depression, handing in her warrant card and leaving the police in 2014.

She said: “I went through a period of trying to dress as a woman and got it completely wrong. I wore bright blue eyeshadow and crimson blusher and ended up getting assaulted.

“I had grown my hair long and walked into a barber’s and had my head shaved and lived for two months back as Richard.”

Sam was so unhappy she took an overdose, and that was the turning point in her life.

She said: “I typed a letter that night on my computer to all the neighbours in the block of flats where I live, explaining that I wanted to live as a woman.

“The next morning, there were a couple of cards on my mat and, when I opened the front door, there were flowers and chocolates.

“Every single neighbour was accepting of me and it really improved the whole way I felt about myself.

“I bleached my hair and got my make-up sorted, and then I spent a week living as a woman in my flat.

“I bagged up all my male clothes and took them to a charity shop, then went to see my GP, who referred me to see a psychiatrist.”

Eventually, Sam was referred to the Gender Identity Clinic in London and put on a waiting list for gender reassignment surgery.

Sam, who was prescribed hormones in June 2015, says she was told to change her name and live as a woman for two years before the surgery.

Tomorrow she will undergo gender reassignment surgery at Parkside Hospital in Wimbledon and will be in recovery for up to 12 weeks.

She said: “I’m excited and very nervous. It’s not a choice. I need the surgery because I was born in the wrong body.

“I have struggled with it for many years and have tried to prove to myself that what I’m thinking is wrong. I have been through hell.

“I have got friends who support me, my ex-wife has been quite amazing, and the community support has been fantastic.

“A lot of people are accepting of me as a woman because I am open, but there are still narrow-minded people who can be nasty.

“People who are abusive are afraid of it, or have issues themselves. Instead of stopping and staring, stop and ask me about it.”

Sam, who will need to take hormones for the rest of her life, has set up a Facebook page – Sam’s Trans Journey – in a bid to raise awareness and understanding of what it means to be transgender.

Aware there could be backlash, she said: “I’m prepared for it.”