Swaps and robbers!

Once a tough villain, I made an amazing decision...

Published by: Laura Hinton and Jocelyn Cook
Published on: 2 August 2012

When you think back to your childhood, what are you reminded of? Your dad pushing you on the swings at the park? Mum planting a kiss on your head as she says goodbye at the school gates?
My biggest memory is when my parents told me I wasn't going to be a little girl any more - because I was actually a boy.
At the time, I'd had no idea I was an intersex baby, born with both male and female genitalia. Then, on my seventh birthday, I'd been so excited about the Barbie doll I'd asked for - but instead I'd got a teddy bear wearing an army uniform.
I'd look at my parents, confused. ‘You're a boy now called Darren,' my dad Derrick, 53, had sighed. ‘You have to start behaving like one.' Talk about a shock!
For a long time, nothing had made much sense to me. Now, 18 years on, I was doing everything I could to become the man my parents wanted me to be. With my short black hair and skull-and-crossbones tattoos, I looked as tough as you could get. I acted tough, too - a real hard man in prison.
Well, that's what real men did, wasn't it? Went on robberies...
But still I didn't fit in. Staring at the blank walls of my prison cell, I felt such desperate sadness. The jeers of the other inmates from earlier in the day still echoed through my mind.
‘You freak,' they'd snarled
at me, such disgust in their
eyes. ‘You don't belong in here, you nutter!'
Curling up into a ball, I sobbed into my pillow. Lost, trapped, I felt like my life was on a downward spiral and I didn't know who, or what, I was. How much harder did I have to be before I was accepted as a proper bloke? Not that I'd ever really felt like one inside.
Serving my 12-month sentence was tough, but I got through it. Once I was out, I decided to try something new to prove I was a man. I'd get a girlfriend.
Shelley, 17, was everything I was looking for. She was so confident in her own skin, and I loved that about her. When she was out, though, I'd find myself trying on her clothes. The silky, floaty tops, the feminine dresses...
‘Woah!' came a startled voice. I span around - and there was Shelley, staring at me in her skirt.
‘Oh God!' I flapped, blushing with the shame. ‘I'm s-sorry.'
But she giggled! ‘I don't mind if you cross-dress. It could be fun.'
She was so chilled out about it that we didn't even mention it after that. But I often wore her clothes and, sometimes when we had sex, I'd slip on her knickers. Something about them made me feel sexy and complete.
I was constantly putting on an act, was never myself. With Shelley, with my parents, and especially with my criminal mates. Of course, I knew breaking the law wouldn't make me feel any better. It was stupid, senseless - but then again, that's how my whole life felt. I might as well be banged up - after all, I was already a prisoner in my own body.
Years passed. More lies, more girlfriends, more prison and beatings from inmates. When I was sent down for being a getaway driver in a robbery, I got 11 years and had to see the prison psychiatrist Nick for a routine check.
‘Tell me how you feel,' he said.
I paused. All these years, and no one had ever actually bothered asking me that. Could I finally really admit what I'd been denying for so long?
Just the thought of it made me break down. The walls I'd tried to build up over the years, in a desperate bid to toughen up and protect myself, had been swept away.
‘I-I-I've buried these strange feelings for three decades,' I sobbed, completely breaking down. ‘I'm l-lost. I don't know who I am...'
Free at last, the truth tumbled out. ‘No, I do know who I am - I should be a woman,' I confessed. My heart hammered, but I felt so relieved to say the words.
‘You could be transgender,' Nick said. ‘We can help you.'
For a moment, I was speechless. He'd made it sound so simple. ‘Really?' I gasped. ‘It all makes sense now. Maybe that's why I turned to crime...I've always tried to play the big man, but it just wasn't me.' It wasn't an excuse for my criminal life - but it was an explanation.
I decided there and then that I wanted to make the transition from male to female. It would take time, Nick told me, but I was willing to wait.
Soon, I'd been moved to Leyhill open prison. It was the fresh start I needed, so I grew my hair and started wearing women's clothes.
‘Please call me Jasmine from now on,' I bravely told the inmates one day. My voice was shaking, I was so terrified of the reaction I'd get.
A few of them shrugged, others didn't even respond. I couldn't believe it. As I walked away, I expected
to hear the usual insults, but there was nothing. To my utter relief, they just left me alone.
‘Maybe you don't look like you're trying to be something you're not any more,' Nick reasoned.
I guessed he was right. I was already so much more comfortable in my own skin.
I felt even better when I
found out I'd been granted the £15,000 funding from the NHS for gender reassignment surgery. Soon, I started taking female hormones. It didn't take long before I began developing a
new body.
‘It's like my body has been crying out for breasts for years,'
I said, so relieved that I'd finally worked out what had been causing me all these problems.
On my day release, I went to a clinic for facial-hair laser treatment. As the stubble was removed, I lay there soaking up the new me - and leaving the old me, the criminal tough guy, behind. Somehow, I kept strong, counting the days until my release.
Five months after leaving prison, I couldn't be happier.
I've had the gender reassignment operation and I'm waiting to have my breasts enlarged to a D cup.
Sadly, my dad can't come to terms with me as a woman, but my mum has been great.
‘Wow,' she gasped excitedly, taking a step back when she first saw the new me. ‘You look absolutely stunning!'
‘Thank you,' I grinned, tears in my eyes.
I don't blame my parents for the way I was brought up, or any mistakes that were made. At the end of the day, it was me who made the decision to lead a criminal life in a bid to hide my true self. I'm sorry, too, for all the crimes I committed and the people I hurt in the process.
In the future, I hope to give something back to society and help other transgender people. One thing I can do now, though, is walk down the street with my head held high. I'm not fooling anyone now, I'm just being me.
Jasmine Goode, 36, Rhyl, Denbighshire