Transgender paramedic Steph Meech discusses coming out, working in the ambulance service as a trans woman, and her advice to others.
A transgender woman from Polegate has told ITV Meridian she felt that if people knew who she really was, she would lose her job.
Steph Meech has worked as a paramedic for more than twenty years. As 'Steve', she decided to transition to Steph, eventually telling her family and then her employer.
"I've known for a long time that I was different to most people, Steph said.
"I didn't conform to what society believed I should be.
"As a young child I realised I wanted to play with girl's things, but I didn't really understand. Back in those days we didn't have the internet, and men in drag was treated as a parody - something to laugh at.
"So I knew at that particular point I had to hide.
With the support of her family, Steph felt comfortable enough to come out to them first, before telling her work colleagues, which she describes as a particularly nerve-wracking time.
"People have known me for a long time as 'Steve', but that's not who I really am. This is who I am - that was a big challenge.
"People only know me as Steph, because I've been more visible as Steph.
"Transition has been going on all my life if I'm being honest. It doesn't just start - you have to become ok and happy with yourself.
"When I did come out, it was this big relief off my shoulders, that I could be who I wanted to be and I never felt happier."
When Steph started her job, she says there were no other trans people in the ambulance service and it left her fearful.
"I thought if I came out as my true self, I'd lose my job.
"So I went to my station manager and said 'I've got something to tell you and I'm not sure how you're going to take it.'
"I came out an hour and a half later, and just remember thinking why didn't I do that sooner.
"I had never felt so supported and from that moment I flourished.
"But there have been times as a trans woman where I go out to do my job, and there are times when people are particularly nasty towards me.
"I get asked 'what I am', in spite of the fact that they have called 999 for emergency help.
"You get those kind of challenges, and when I do, I'm quite direct, because at the end of the day, we are an emergency service, and extremely busy, and we don't have time to answer questions like that - we're there to help.
"We shouldn't have to face that kind of abuse.
"What I'd say to people is learn about LGBT. If you don't understand something, do your own research and go and talk to people.
"Don't be afraid to talk to people - I wish I'd done that sooner."
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