Captain Hannah Rose Winterbourne joined the British military years ago and served a tour in Afghanistan.
But she said the biggest conflict she faced was one of personal identity — something she’s proudly conquered now.
Winterbourne came out Monday as the highest-ranking transgender soldier serving in the British army, and said her fight to become a woman was harder than anything she saw in combat.
“I was acting for everyone around me. There was no let up where I could stop that act,” she told the London tabloid The Sun.
But now Winterbourne, 27, is more than a year past her transformation procedure, and ready to fight for the front lines of femininity.
“It’s about finding that courage to do it,” she said. “And that’s not the easiest thing in the world.”
Apparently courage comes with timing.
Winterbourne was born a boy but felt like a girl for as long as she remembered. Growing up, she liked wearing female clothes — and loved the idea of joining the army.
At 15, she entered a residential college leading to army careers, and the armed forces sponsored her engineering degree at Newcastle University.
When she was 23 and doing officer training in Britain’s Sandhurst military academy, she said she finally realized she was a woman in a man’s body.
But it wasn’t the right time to drop that bombshell.
“All of a sudden I’ve got soldiers under my command. I thought, ‘This isn’t the time to do it, I’ll just bear with it,'” she told The Sun.
After a while, she decided the truth will set her free.
She played the masculine part and, despite awful attacks of loneliness, kept her thoughts top secret.
Still, when serving at a post in Germany, she came out to doctors there.
“That’s when my transition process began,” she said.
Winterbourne then came out to a friend, who wasn’t bothered a bit by the news.
“Every time you have one of those baby steps it makes it easier to take the next one, so you tell a few more people,” she said.
After finishing a six-week tour at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, she was ready to advance on her personal mission. She started living openly as a woman and began hormone therapy and surgery to complete the change.
She now serves as a captain in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers, leading a company of more than 100 soldiers.
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