HEARING the actor Eddie Redmayne is tipped for Oscar success following his portrayal of Lili Elbe, one of the world’s first sex change patients, feels like such a victory – not just for him but the whole transgender community.
 

Transgender men and women have fought for so long for acceptance and recognition in mainstream society and the success of Redymane’s film The Danish Girl is another example of how far we have come.
 

Celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner and Kellie Maloney are helping to show the world what transgender means, Eastenders has just announced a new trans actor has joined the cast for the first time history and the Army has it’s first trans officer, Hannah Winterbourne.
 

The very fact I’m sharing my story with Best readers is another example of how transgender people are being accepted into society more than ever before.
 

It hasn’t always been so easy for us. By the time I was seven- years -old I knew ‘something wasn’t right,’ but gender issues were never discussed.
 

At school I identified more with girls than boys and wished I could wear a skirt like them.
 

When I reached my teens I began to wonder if I was gay, but that box didn’t seem to fit either. The only time I felt comfortable was when I dressed in mum’s clothes in secret.
 

But I still didn’t understand that I was transgender because I had no access to articles online or in the press that I could identify with.
 

So instead I tried to suppress my feelings. At 16 I joined the Army in a desperate bid to be the Kevin I was expected to be.
 

Serving as a Rifleman in The Royal Green Jackets in Germany, Gibraltar, Canada and the Falklands kept my desires suppressed.
 

But after eight years it was time to move on.
 

And when I returned to civilian life, so returned my desire to dress as a woman.
 

In 1995 I met and fell in love with a woman and managed to suppress the feelings and in 1998 we married.
 

But in 2000 I began to dress as a woman in secret in the loft. My wife never went up there but I still kept my dresses and size eight shoes in a box just in case.
 

I hoped it would be enough to satisfy my urges and allow me to continue with my ‘normal life.’
 

But by 2003 the feelings were stronger than ever and I decided to tell my wife.
 

I guess I hoped she might accept it as part of our lives, but she refused to discuss it, burying her head in the sand.
 

But I couldn’t go on living a lie and in 2009, after having therapy, we separated.  It was a chance to finally be honest about who I was.
 

But because I weighed 19 stone and was a size 22 I didn’t feel confident when I went out in public as a woman.
 

So in January 2010 I joined my local Slimming World as Kevin and lost six and a half stone in ten months.
 

I was a size 12 when I finally looked in the mirror I felt proud of my reflection.
 

Walking through Romford market one Saturday morning, nobody looked twice.
 

‘This is it, this is who I am,’ I said to myself proudly.
 

I knew then that I had to make the transition full time and my bosses at the council offices where I worked in IT were supportive. In Oct 2010 I took leave and returned to work as Kerri.
 

My colleagues were great, expect one who made an issue about me using the women’s toilets.
 

‘I’d rather use the men’s, they are much cleaner,’ I quipped back.
 

Every day my life as woman got easier and more enjoyable. People treated me as a female. But I knew I’d never really feel complete unless I underwent gender reassignment surgery.
 

It seemed ironic that on 11 September 2014 I was on my way to hospital for the NHS funded surgery.
 

Exactly 30 years earlier to the day I had joined the Army. In many ways it seemed poles apart, but at the same time, both required courage, bravery and determination.
 

As they wheeled me into theatre I didn’t feel nervous, I’d never felt more sure about anything in my life, I was just anxious that the surgery would go well.
 

I needn’t have worried. When I came round and groggily remembered where I was and what I had done I remember thinking: ‘ I’m a girl at last… yippee.’
 

Two days later the surgeon came round and removed the bandages for the first time. My heart was hammering as he inspected me down below for what felt like ages before finally declaring it: ‘ a good job… I think.’
 

One of my friend’s daughters came to visit and told me she’d wanted to buy a card but couldn’t find one, so instead made one that said: ‘ Congratulations on your loss.’ It made me laugh so much and I treasure it to this day.
 

I felt absolutely amazing. But my transformation wasn’t quite complete. My weight fluctuation had taken a toll on my bust so last year I decided to have an enlargement.
 

My surgeon at the Transform was fantastic and my new £4,000 38DD breasts felt like the final part of the puzzle.
 

Finally I had the confidence to persue my ambition to work as a make up artist. I’m now fully qualified and training in theatrical make up too.
 

Since my transition I’ve dated men and women trying to work out if I am gay or straight but I’ve finally realised I don’t need to put myself in a box anymore.
 

I was doing the make up at a fashion show recently and was lucky enough to meet Kellie Maloney who I really admire.
 

Transitioning in the spotlight, especially having worked in such a male dominated environment took real guts.
 

It’s not been an easy road for me, but I don’t regret a thing. Being born with the wrong bits made me who I am today.
 

Now I’m planning to write a book about my life to help inspire others and continue to make our society as cohesive as possible.  Kerri is on twitter at @ForeverKerriM
 
 

For more information about Transform visit www.transforminglives.co.uk
 
 

ENDS