Ireland’s first ever recipient of gender reassignment surgery reveals her incredible life story
Ever since Caitlyn Jenner famously appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, the issues faced by trans people are finally beginning to be addressed in the mainstream media. However, there are plenty of people out there who aren't so pleased about the attention that Caitlyn is receiving as a high-profile and privileged celebrity when there are other trans people out there who have been struggling with their gender identity for decades who have been on the receiving end of abuse and prejudice. One such person is Rebecca Tallon De Havilland - famous for being the first woman in Ireland to go through gender reassignment surgery. Now she's decided to open up about her remarkable life in a candid interview.
Rebecca was born to a middle-class family from County Longford, and was assigned as male at birth. For many years Rebecca wrestled with gender dysphoria in secret, and was a rebellious youth all through school. She left as a teen to become a hairdresser and married a woman, with whom she had a daughter. She broke up with her partner though, and later moved to London and realised that she was actually trans. The problem was that reassignment surgery would cost her £10,000 ($12,000). She turned to escorting to raise the money, but spiralled into addiction and depression.
Commenting on her childhood, Rebecca stated:
"People ask transgender children now, ‘How can you know? You’re so young’ – but I knew. If I’d realised back then that you could take hormone blockers, I’d have been first in the queue. As a child, I would do things like drape the net curtains over my head, pretending I had long hair. I would get a laugh, but deep down, being female was what I truly wanted. I was a late developer, puberty-wise, which I think was my body sub-consciously trying to block it all out as I didn’t want it to happen."
"I felt pressured to be a certain way. Back then, you didn’t have Google or phones. We survived on what we saw, and our wits – and nobody was talking about being transgender. So, I married and had a daughter, who I loved enormously, but I still didn’t know who I was. I tried being a straight man, and that wasn’t me, so I tried being a gay man, but being homosexual was illegal back then, and it still didn’t fit my identity, so it led to difficulties with seeing my child.”
"I met with and spoke to transgender people who’d had gender reassignment surgery and it was hugely emotional to realise that’s what I was, and what I wanted, too," Rebbecca stated. "I was in the papers a lot then for being trans, especially back home in Ireland. That did me no favours, but it did the world a favour as it brought transgender issues into the mainstream media. I made love as a woman for the first time aged 31, and I finally thought, ‘This is me.’ It was so emotional. I’d dealt with so much heartache and humiliation to get to where I was."
Rebecca still works in Soho for the Terrence Higgins TrustOutreach branch, helping people who have HIV. To learn more about the work she does, then visit their official homepage here.