My name is Susan Brook, I was born in Chadderton Lancashire and adopted as a baby and was brought up in the King Cross area just above the peoples park. My schooling was at Parkinson Lane Junior and Infants School and Haugh Shaw Secondary Modern School.
I left school in 1982 with 7 CSE’s during the recession caused by Margret Thatcherís government and could not find any employment due to having no experience and eventually was placed on the very first government employment programme. I spent the next 2 years on the government work programme which changed its name 3 times, stacking shelves at Morrisons supermarket and as a shop assistant at a radio and television shop on Queens road Halifax.
In July of 1984 I joined the Royal Air Force after fighting red tape having been refused entry on medical grounds. I undertook my basic training at RAF Swinderby in Lincolnshire and then was posted to RAF Locking near Weston-Super-Mare where I concluded my trade training as a radio, radar and telecommunications mechanic. From here I was posted to my first real posting in 1985 and was despatched off to RAF Church Fenton near Tadcaster and York. My RAF career started well but took a turn for the worse when we received a new senior non commissioned officer in charge of our section in late 1986. My face didnít fit and I was given all the worst jobs, extra duties and ceremonial duties. I found that no matter how hard I tried whatever I did was never right and this led to me being charged on numerous occasions and 2 short prison terms. The results of this meant I knew my way around the officers mess kitchens so well I was asked to stand in for the duty chef when he went absent without leave one weekend. I had also begun to drink to the excess during this time which brought more trouble and eventually hospitalisation for rehabilitation purposes.
In 1987 I met my partner and was married in early 1988. Between this point and mid 1989 an old problem I had had since childhood came into play again and I had started to borrow my wifes clothes in private. She confronted me about this when we were out at a night club when I had commented on a dress a girl was wearing by asking me if I meant the dress or the girl. After a lengthy conversation she had to explain to me what being trangender meant and when she did all my feelings dropped into place, it was my eaureka moment. We decided to keep it private until the July of 1990 when I was discharged from active service without being medically discharged. This was to be the start of the biggest struggle of my life.
Having been discharged from the air force I was divorced in early 1991 and moved to Ovenden where I lived for a short period before losing my flat, I was also fired from my job as a security guard at Websters brewery when I notified my employer I intended to under go gender reassignment. I then moved to Leeds to live with my sister before moving back to Halifax early 1992 and residing in a bedsit in Hopwood Lane. This was not to last however and I had to move out due to a flooded shower and my ceiling becoming unsafe. I then subletted a friends flat in Boothtown until December 1992 during which time I obtained RSA stage 1 in book keeping and a diploma in IT. Once again I lost my home due to the council ending my friends tenancy and I spent 18 months homeless. A few chance meetings during late summer of 1993 meant I did not have to endure a second winter on the streets, and spent a good few months sofa surfing until the weather picked up.
I was finally offered a flat of my own in 1994 by the council and moved to Mixenden, which brought its own problems caused by prejudice. From here I was able to start rebuilding my life. I found some casual work in a local garage and after a month or so I told the garage owner that I was transgender before he heard it from a new customer who knew of me. I initially thought he would be prejudiced against me but once I had explained my stance he became a good friend. Even though I now had a firm address full employment still eluded me due to lack of qualifications or experience, or so employers told me. So between may 2000 and may 2001 I attended Calderdale College and gained several admin and IT qualifications along with health and safety and first aid certificates. Since gaining my qualifications I have been on numerous government employment programmes and applied for more jobs than I can count and have remained unemployed due to a mixture of lack of experience, age and prejudice/discrimination.
In mid 2003 I finally gained employment on an 8 week temporary contract with Telewest Broadband. In late 2003 to early 2004 whilst on yet another government employment scheme was a volunteer for the Brunswick Centre where I undertook All aspects of administration, maintenance of IT equipment. In addition to these tasks I occasionally assisted with the MSM and womenís sexual health social work.
Between August 2004 and August 2014 I undertook Voluntary work in the community and personal carer for various clients which enabled them to lead as near a normal life as possible. It was also during this period that I finally received my gender reassignment between March 2009 and having my final all clear appointment in august 2014. My gender reassignment started with facial hair removal treatments that involved intense pulsed light and laser treatments every 6 weeks until November 2012. I first informed my GP I would like to change gender in mid 2009, having researched what treatments I needed and where to obtain such treatments. I then had to wait until 10/11/09 for a referral to a local psychiatrist for my second opinion for referral to the Leeds Gender Identity Clinic, and was placed on the waiting list on 8/12/09.
In January 2010 I had my 1st assessment at Leeds GIC, this was the start of many 3 monthly appointments over the next few years. The next major milestone in my journey was my 1st psychological assessment at the Leeds GIC, this was conducted on 17/2/10 by Dr Beani, after a cancelled appointment on 6/1/10. after this I was placed on hormone therapy and the real life experience portion of the care pathway for the next couple of years. On 3/4/12 I was eventually put on the waiting list for my 2nd opinion which was needed for my surgery, after yet another cancelled appointment on 21/5/12 I had my 2nd opinion on 18/6/12.
The result of this was more than favourable and I was then able to chose where to have my main surgery and I chose Dr PJ Thomas in Brighton, as there was only 3 surgeons in the country performing this operation.
I attended my 1st consultation with Dr Thomas on 11/9/12 followed by a pre-op assessment and finally my operation on 23/11/12. I was given the all clear for this operation and discharged from Dr Thomasís care on 26/2/13, although the total recovery time is 18 months. My next operation was my breast augmentation performed by Dr PJ Kneeshaw in Hull and I was placed on the waiting list for this on 22/10/12.
My 1st operation was cancelled on 23/1/13 after travelling to hull for admittance, and finally had this operation on 20/2/13 to have my bilateral expanders inserted. I had several trips to Hull to have the skin gradually stretched over the next 9 months. I had my final operation to have my implants inserted in February 2014 and was finally discharged in August 2014, whilst on the Volunteer Plus Programme at 3 Ways. I had suffered from mild depression for many years and had put this down to my struggle to become the woman I always should have been, but now realised that was not the case. My depression also had a side effect in that I found it difficult to socialise as I would often end up arguing with people over nothing.
So in June 2014 after the break up of what for me was a long term relationship I decided to change my GP and seek treatment, and was subsequently prescribed mild medication to help stabilise my moods. This worked to a certain degree, but I still suffered from some depression. I thought it could in part be also caused by the lack of social contact, as in the past I had played pool, darts & dominoes in local leagues and golf winning a trophy at Halifax Golf Club in 2012. It was at this point I discovered Centre @ 3 Ways through a friend, who said there may be some volunteering opportunities there. So in july 2014 myself and my friend visited Centre @ 3 ways where I spoke briefly to Haley, Colin, Martin, Dave and a few others involved with project, and I expressed my willingness to become a volunteer there. I started on the Volunteer Plus Programme at the beginning of August 2014 and this was the beginning of a turn around in my life. Whilst on the Volunteer Plus Programme I have improved my plastering, tiling and painting & decorating skills and at the same time improved my own social skills as well as hopefully having a positive influence on those around me.
I finished on the Volunteer Plus Programme at the beginning of October 2014 and have decided to remain as a volunteer at 3 Ways and will hopefully become a mentor at The West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company Limited until I find payed employment.
Centre @ 3 Ways has given me a new confidence to take my life forward and helped with my mental health in such a way that I now feel anything is possible and the sky is the limit.