A transgender teen has recalled how she was laughed at by classmates after telling them she “wanted to be a girl” at seven years old.
Kate Cooch, 18, who was born as boy called Callum Wingate, says she had known she was in the wrong body since primary school.
But when she confessed her secret desire to her schoolmates during a swimming lesson 11 years ago, she says they jeered and laughed at her.
Reflecting on the incident, Kate said she and the other young children had been discussing what they wanted to be when they grew up.
The teenager, who is taking a break from her hairdressing course, said: “I was stood in the pool and I said, ‘When I’m older, I want to be a girl.’
“They all laughed at me and started calling me names. I said I was just joking and pushed it to the back of my mind, but it really hurt my feelings.”
She added that kept her feelings secret from her friends and family for a staggering nine years after the upsetting incident.
But finally, after reaching breaking point aged 16, she tearfully confessed everything to her mum, Rachel Cooch, 36.
Now, she is finally the girl she’d always wanted to be – and is looking for love.
Kate, from Stafford, Staffordshire, said : “I knew my dad wouldn’t accept me so, after they separated in 2014, I told my mum what I really was.
“It was very emotional. We were crying and hugging. It was a big relief. I’d struggled with it by myself for years and now I finally can feel free.”
The teenager, who hopes to undergo surgery, was just a child when she realised she was different from other boys her age.
She would throw massive tantrums when she was dressed in boys’ clothes and given boys’ toys. Instead, she pretended she was a mermaid or a princess.
She also played with the girls in her class, not the boys.
After the swimming pool incident, when she was seven, Kate said she decided not to divulge her secret desire to anyone else.
Fearing she’d be rejected, she said she pushed it right to the back of her mind and tried to forget about it.
However, her feelings wouldn’t go away and when she was 14, she came out as a bisexual.
When her friends accepted her with open arms, Kate said she then came out as gay.
She said: “I still didn’t feel right. I started wearing make-up and bought handbags – I was a very girly gay. I felt more myself, but didn’t feel completely like me.
“I’d heard of sex changes, but I never thought I could be who I would want to be.
“I didn’t think I could be a full woman, with hormones and everything. I was scared.
“Then I looked into it and I realised it was definitely how I am.”
Tearfully, Kate confessed to her mum that she was transgender and was shocked when Rachel fully accepted her.
Comforted by her mum’s support, she decided to come out to all her friends and family after her school prom in 2014.
Her dad found out through family members about her transition.
However, Kate said the pair have not spoken for three years.
After coming out to her loved ones, the teenager immediately threw out her boys’ clothes, swapping her wardrobe for tight dresses, towering heels and skinny jeans.
In September 2016, she started taking testosterone blockers and she is now due to start hormones in six months.
But, while her friends and family have been accepting, Kate said she has had a different reaction from men.
She said: “Dating can be really hard. I’ve been single for two years. I’ve always wanted to have a relationship, but it is really hard for pre-op trans people.
“Men on my Facebook and YouTube channel will message me and say, ‘I could never date someone like that, that’s disgusting’.”
For now, Kate is focusing on her transition – but hopes the right person will come along.
She said: “I like blonde hair and blue eyes and tall boys with nice bone structure.
“I’m interested in boys with a good sense of humour and who are romantic but who don’t show it that often.”
Kate also hopes to have a number of operations in the future, including a tracheal shave, reassignment surgery, facial feminisation surgery, a chin reduction, rhinoplasty, a brow bone shave and a mini eyebrow lift.
The teenager said she plans to get as many surgeries as possible on the NHS – because all of the procedures would cost around £60,000.
She added: “I’m debating whether to have breast augmentation, but it depends how big they grow when I take hormones. I want to be as natural as possible.
“I feel so much happier now that I’m living as a woman. I love wearing heels and tight dresses to go clubbing in. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.”