A former bearded biker and weightlifter celebrated her birthday by having an operation which gave her a VAGINA.
Born a boy named Sam, Samantha Denning, 47, always felt like a woman trapped in a male body, but she battled her feelings and overcompensated with motorbikes, weightlifting and dressing in masculine leather jackets.
Struggling with suicidal thoughts, she confided in her nephew who persuaded her to finally start living as a woman.
After four years of hormone treatment Miss Denning, of Bristol, celebrated her 47th birthday in September 2014 with NHS-funded gender reassignment surgery.
She said: “I’m finally able to be myself for the first time in my life.
“I’ve always known I am woman, now I truly feel like one. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present.”
Miss Denning kept to herself while growing up and felt confused about why she did not fit in with classmates.
She said: “I always preferred the company of girls. While the boys at school liked football, I tried to join the netball team. I couldn’t understand why I was turned away.
“I was bullied mercilessly and had to change school several times. My skull was caved in after one particularly horrific incident which hospitalised me after a bunch of boys jumped on me for being ‘queer’.
“I spent most of my time on my own. I didn’t feel comfortable being around people.”
From the age of six, the unhappy child would sneak into her sister’s wardrobe and try on girls’ clothing in secret.
She said: “I felt at ease in women’s clothing. It wasn’t a sexual thing. It made me more comfortable.
“I used to try on my sister’s jeans, t-shirts, jumpers and tops. Then I started to try on her swimming costumes. I used paint from my art set as makeup.”
After she left school Miss Denning tried desperately to fit in as a male. She grew a beard, listened to heavy metal music, started weight-lifting, wore leathers and drove a motorbike.
She said: “I did everything I could to try and fit in. I tried to bulk myself up with weight-lifting. I had always been very slight in school.
“When I look back at the pictures I think I look terrible – no wonder I couldn’t find a girlfriend.
“I now wear a much more fashionable leather jacket.”
One night when she was 32 years old Miss Denning turned on the TV and stumbled across a documentary on gender reassignment.
She then realised she wanted to make a permanent change and become a woman.
She said: “Finally, everything clicked into place. As I watched the people on the screen, it was like staring into a mirror. I felt like my whole life had been one big lie.
“I watched the documentary twice, then went online and started chatting to transgender people on message boards.
“Before watching the show I had no idea that this was even possible. I had been so confused as to why I was upset. Now I knew I was transgender, and everything made sense.”
She ordered tablets from an online supplier and began years of self-administered hormone therapy.
She said: “The hormones gave me mood swings, and I found the process slow and frustrating, but gradually my skin got smoother and my moods settled. I felt like I was getting somewhere.”
As her appearance began to change, she became more and more terrified of telling her family and friends the truth.
The former NHS administrator battled suicidal thoughts and even wrote a suicide note in preparation for ending her life.
Then one evening she received a phone call from her nephew who had seen a comment she had left on a transgender message board online.
She said: “He was very quiet at first. Then he came over to my house.
“He saved my life by coming over and being so understanding. His support stopped me from taking my own life. Matthew even promised to help me tell my parents. He had a friend at college who was transgender, so he was very understanding.”
On January 6th 2011 Miss Denning left her house in women’s clothing for the first time in her life. That same month she told her parents she was a woman and started phoning all her friends to tell them her news.
She said: “A lot of my friends were disgusted and told me never to contact them again, which really hurt. I did hold on to a few true friends.
“More importantly, my parents slowly came to terms with it too.
“I donated all of my male attire to charity shops. Everything to do with the man I wasn’t I threw away or gave away. I stepped out of the house as myself for the first time in my life.
“I suffered a lot of abuse from strangers when I began dressing as a woman in public, but I persevered.”
Now, after four years of counselling and hormone therapy from her GP, Miss Denning took the final step in her transformation. She had an operation at Charing Cross Hospital to turn her penis into a vagina on September 29th 2014, just after her 47th birthday.
She said: “I woke up after surgery and I knew my life had changed forever.
“I had a look under the sheets and I saw that the bump was not there anymore. My new vagina was still covered in tape and bandages, but I felt happy.”
Since her operation Miss Denning has worked with Bristol City Council on LGBT issues and runs a support group for other transgender people.
Miss Denning, who is currently out of work recovering from surgery, is hoping to have breast augmentation to complete her transition from male to female.
She said: “I would love to be able to answer the door without having to find my padded bra. Having breasts would make me feel totally comfortable with people.”
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