Soldier who joined the Army aged 16 in a bid to suppress his desire for a sex change is now 'happier than ever' after becoming a womanJennine Jackson, 47, was born Russell Jackson but always felt differentJoined army to suppress his feelings but after becoming unfit for service he decided to undergo sex changeSpent 4,000 on breast implants and now feels confidentNow runs his own tyre business
13:31 GMT, 13 November 2012
A soldier who always knew he wanted to be a woman has finally had a sex change after spending almost 25 years in the Army.
Jennine Jackson, who was born Russell Jackson, joined the macho world of the military aged just 16 in a desperate bid to suppress her feelings.
As a member of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, the 47-year-old served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Belize, Berlin, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Kenya and Oman.
Jennine Jackson, who was born Russell, joined the military aged 16 in a desperate bid to suppress her feelings but always knew she wanted to be a woman
During Russell’s military career, he went through many hardships – including witnessing one of his colleagues being blown up in front of his eyes.
But throughout his time in the Armed Forces, the desire to become a woman never left him and when he was discharged from the army in 2005 he finally embarked upon gender reassignment therapy.
Jennine had her last operation in 2011 and says now that she is officially a woman, she has never been happier with her life.
She has even set up her own business specialising in tyre repairs, inspired by her time spent in the army.
The ex-squaddie, who grew up in Burnley, Lancashire, but now lives in Darlington, County Durham, said: 'From a young age I always knew I was different.
'But it was the 1980s and where I came from you got strung up even if you were gay.
'There wasn’t the same help and information there is today.
The young squaddie knew he was different from a young age but attempted to suppress his feelings
'I was not happy with who I was but I did the opposite of what I wanted to do. I tried to become a man.
'It was also the middle of the Thatcher-era, there were no jobs and I had a difficult home life. I needed to get out.'
Russell had been withdrawn at school, knowing that he was different from everyone else and was bullied by other children because he was small for his age and wore glasses.
Not getting on with his family, who he is still estranged from, he was eager to leave home.
Aged just 16, Russell threw himself into army life and quickly got promoted, but he never felt as though he belonged.
Russell was bullied by other children at school because he was small for his age and wore glasses
She added: 'I had always found it difficult in the army. Some of the lads had massive groups of friends, but I never did.
'I just stuck to a few acquaintances, not wanting to get too close to anyone.
so much was going on, I managed to push my feelings to the back of my
mind. It was a very macho, back-slapping kind of environment with a lot
of drinking in the bar and towards the end I felt as though I was
putting on an act all the time.
'There was pressure to behave like the rest of them, and to be a man.
'After I got promoted I tried hard just to get on with things, I was high-up so I gave orders and didn’t mix that much with the other lads.'
Russell was discharged due to an eye infection in 2005 having reached the position of quartermaster sergeant at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire.
In his last few years of his career, he had established the armoured vehicle fleet at Catterick where he was in command of 72 vehicles and their drivers.
But the infection had left him needing a corneal transplant and as a result his sight was permanently impaired, meaning he was no longer fit for service.
It was then that Russell seriously started thinking about having a sex change.
He had never discussed his feelings with anyone before but that same year he visited his GP and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Jennine then started having counselling and taking hormone tablets at the start of a six-year process.
She funded the sex change herself, forking out 4,000 for a boob job but says she encountered prejudice along the way.
While she was going through the transition neighbours she had told were supportive but some locals vandalised her car and house.
Throughout his time in the armed forces, the
desire to become a woman never left him and when he was discharged from
the army in 2005 he finally embarked upon gender reassignment therapy
Jennine said: 'Some people accepted me
and some would not. I drifted from job to job, it was difficult to get a
job in the first place.
'I worked in call centres, but I finally got fed up when rumours started circulating that I was working as an escort.
'I had tough times and sometimes turned to drink to escape.'
Over the years, Jennine has had relationships with both men and women, although she prefers women.
She says she finds it difficult to meet people and is single at the moment, but is open to dating.
She added: 'It’s hard enough to find someone these days when you are straight, so I find it particularly challenging.'
Now Jennine has completed her transition from a man to a woman and gained the confidence to open her own business she is starting to feel accepted.
She added: 'I am happier now than I have ever been. It has been a lot of hard work, but it has definitely been worth it.
'I have had a great response, and people appear to be a lot more accepting towards me.
'I don’t get many problems now, but there are always going to be people who will have a go, no matter how much you try to blend in.
'I try not to let it bother me, and as a whole I feel as though I get a positive response from the people I meet.
Russell didn't have many friends during his time in the army and kept himself to himself but feels much happier in his new body
'The only thing I wish is that I had taken the plunge earlier. Apart from anything else the earlier you start the better the result is.
'But really I am just happy that I have done it at all.'
Jennine’s Darlington-based business Tyre-Seal provides a service which permanently fixes punctures.
She said: 'I got the idea from working with vehicles during my time in the army. But also I suffered a lot of tyre damage when I was going through my transition and people kept vandalising my car, putting nails in my tyres.
'The sealant I use permanently seals punctures as you drive, it maintains tyre pressure and helps save fuel.
'It’s early days at the moment and I am hoping the business takes off, then life really will be good.'