National Coming Out Day: British Senior Transgender Officer Shares Her Story

With the recent celebration of National Coming Out Day comes the inspiring stories that followed. One such story is that of Captain Hannah Winterbourne’s, the highest ranking transgender officer in the British Army.

The captain in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers spent her first few years as a man in the Army before making the decision to transition at age 25, while on duty at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

“Being in the Army I felt I had to put on a veneer of confident outgoing masculinity,” she said. “I played a good game. I suppressed a lot of feminine characteristics and learnt to behave in a very masculine way because that’s how society had conditioned me to be.”

She refuses to reveal her original name, saying it is a ‘label’ from her past.

Winterbourne joined a college for Armed Forces careers at age 15 before being sponsored by the Army to study electronic engineering at Newcastle University. She later attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

She also confided to have struggled with her identity at an early age.

“I have known all my life to a degree but sometimes it’s hard to translate feelings into actions. I didn’t feel right in my own skin but wasn’t sure what to do,” she stated.

Winterbourne said she received nothing but support from the Army, her family, friends, and colleagues when she went public with her decision to transition.

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“The army has been very, very supportive. It is a great place for transgender personnel. They don’t care if you are LGBT, black or white, as long as you can do your job.”

Her father, Brian, revealed that he and his wife Wendy’s only concerns were the hardships their daughter would have to face, especially from society.

“I was surprised but supportive,” he shared. “It’s not something any parent wants to hear, not because they are negative, but because they see it might mean a hard life. Though that’s not always the case.”

He added, “When Hannah first told me she said, ‘I have got something to tell you and it’s serious.’ I thought she was ill or something and when she told me I thought, ‘Thank God for that, it’s not something serious.’”

Winterbourne became an ambassador for LGBT Sport Cymru after realizing that not everyone in her situation experienced the same positivity she received from her peers. Her aim is to become a role model for others who feel the need to give up the sport after transitioning.

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“The idea of being a role model is that others can see someone with whom they can identify and understand that their feelings are valid,” she stated. “I was at university when I understood who I am, but it wasn’t until 2012, when I was 25, that I did something about it.”

“I transitioned because it is who I am,” she added. “There is no choice. You can no more choose than you can choose to be black or white or left handed. It just is who I am. I have had these feelings my entire life.”

For National Coming Out Day, LGBT Sport Cymru launched its #ProudToPlay Twitter campaign where they tweeted uplifting messages and photos throughout the day. Winterbourne’s story was among the personal stories that were shared.

Winterbourne, from Cardiff, expressed worries of having to give up her much loved sport, rugby. The emergence of LGBT teams meant this was not the case for her, as she now plays for Cardiff Dragons after giving up the competitive sport for a short while.

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“I transitioned because it is who I am. There is no choice. You can no more choose than you can choose to be black or white or left-handed. It is just who I am,” she declared.

“I would say to someone reading this: ‘You are who you are and no amount of worrying or angst is going to change that so understand that who you are is absolutely fine.’”

“Try to find someone you can confide in. I want to show people what it looks like to be trans and happy.”

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About the author

Regina is a Fine Arts graduate who expresses herself through various mediums. She finds amusement in pop culture, enjoys video games, and watches way too many YouTube videos on a daily basis.