WHEN Becky Kaufmann retired after 20 years as a prison officer in the United States and moved to Scotland to study sociology, she had no idea it was a step that would transform her life.

At the time she was living as a man in Wisconsin: a husband of 30 years who had raised eight children, while burying her real identity.

She said: "My ex became aware of the fact I was trans some 20 years ago, and made it abundantly clear that if I ever expressed it in any way I would never see her or my kids every again. At which point I said 'okay, kids are more important' and locked it in a box. That was still going on when it came time to retire and come over here."

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However, when the marriage broke down, Becky finally felt free to embrace her true self.

She said: "The marriage was over, most of my kids sided with her in the divorce, I had been in Scotland about a year and I just thought 'enough of this'. I have given up half a century of my life, I have some very serious mental health baggage because of it, and I needed to move my life forward."

She was approaching her 50th birthday when she had her first consultation at the gender identity clinic. It was an appointment she had waited 14 months for, but it was another six months before she could be referred for the hormone treatment that would kick-start transition. Eventually, in September 2014, National Service Division approved funding for her male-to-female genital surgery and - in April 2016 - the operation finally went ahead in Brighton.

In all, the process took around five years, but remains incomplete. She is still waiting for breast augmentation - the only element of trans-surgery which continues to be controlled by health boards, not NSD.

However, now 55 and living in Edinburgh, Becky has built a new life in Scotland. She has remarried and been accepted for a PhD at Edinburgh University.

She said: "Transition is the best thing that ever happened in my life. I am now an outgoing, successful, respected, fairly happy person. That contrasts with the very withdrawn, very shy, very introverted person that I was before. I absolutely am in a better place in my life.

"That said, I wouldn't wish transition on my worst enemy. All the obstacles, all the battles, constantly having to prove your legitimacy - constantly having to convince people that this isn't some fun little game you're playing at."