Transgender couple’s wedding joy
They started out life as different genders – today they’re their real selves and madly in love
IT WAS something she didn’t dare dream of as a child – boys just didn’t wear beautiful gowns like the girls did in the Disney movies she loved to watch. But when Captain Hannah Winterbourne, England’s highest-ranking transgender soldier, stepped out recently in her white wedding dress to say “I do” to fellow transgender person Jake Graf (40) she proved to herself and the world she was every inch the princess she’d always yearned to be.
“It was a pipe dream,” the 31-year-old told The Sun newspaper. “Until I met Jake I never realised it was a goal I could achieve. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Her actor husband, who was assigned female at birth, shared her sentiments. “I never thought any of this was a possibility. Now I’ve got this beautiful army captain wife and I’m so happy.”
The newlyweds have been dubbed the world’s foremost transgender “power couple”.
But Jake, who appeared in The Danish Girl, the Oscar-winning movie about artist Lili Elbe’s transgender journey, says they’re just like every other couple.
“We have our flaws and ups and downs,” he says. Their history is just a little different from other couples, he adds.
He describes their recent wedding, at London’s historic Chelsea Town Hall, as “absolutely magical”.
“Hannah looked stunning and we both cried as she walked down the aisle. We had two beautiful readings and simple vows. We cracked the glass underfoot in a throwback to my Jewish heritage.”
Instead of presents, guests donated flowers and a cake and contributed to the couple’s surrogacy fund as becoming parents is their next goal.
After their wedding the lovebirds – who’ll honeymoon in Tel Aviv, Israel, in May – held aloft the baby blue-, pink- and white-striped flag of the trans community as they posed for pictures.
“We’re just like any other bride and groom,” they said in a recent interview. “As you transition and meet someone new you kind of forget about your past.”
THE pair met three years ago after Jake saw an article about Hannah in The Sun, which told of her decision to become a woman while on active duty in the British army. “I saw her on the front page and thought she was beautiful,” he says. He mentioned his feelings to a mutual friend identified only as Rebecca, who a week later came back to him with some good news.
“I spoke to Captain Winterbourne and she thinks you’re cute too,” she told him.
“It really was playground stuff,” Jake says.
They first made contact on Facebook before swopping phone numbers.
“In our first phone conversation I asked, ‘Do you think you’d like to have
kids because I really want them?’ ” says Jake, who knew from early childhood he was trapped in the wrong body.
“It seemed like the right thing to do before we met. I like to get things out in the open quite early.”
Hannah admits she was “absolutely terrified” to go on their first date as she’d never had a boyfriend before. But knowing Jake was transgender helped a lot.
“I didn’t have to explain myself. He knew how to deal with it. I’ve got a low voice but he understood.
“I was really insecure about dating. But I decided now was the time to push myself and see if there was a person out there who could love me. And I hit the jackpot the first time.”
Things moved quickly. “Jake wanted something serious,” she says. “He didn’t want a fling.
“When I told my family and friends I loved him they were concerned I was just caught up in the emotion of having my first boyfriend.
“But three years on he still makes me feel I’m the centre of his universe.”
JAKE popped the question in September last year while they were on holiday in New York, going down on one knee in a rowing boat on a lake in Central Park. The British actor, who features in the upcoming movie Colette with Keira Knightley, says most people don’t realise they’re a transgender couple.
“We’re lucky enough that we both look like any other person walking down the street. By and large we pass through life without the abuse and harassment a lot of trans people get.”
He had a tough time growing up though. “I used to pray every night I’d wake up a boy. It made me angry and I cut myself off from everybody else.”
At the age of 25 he met a trans man while visiting New York and realised there was hope. He went on to have successful gender reassignment surgery.
Hannah, who’s from Wales, was “quite young” when she knew she was different. “But as a young person I couldn’t pinpoint the fact I felt I was a girl.”
She finally understood who she was when she was at university but didn’t do anything about it until after she’d joined the army.
After serving for a few years as a man, she underwent reassignment surgery at the age of 25.
“I transitioned because it’s who I am. There’s no choice. You can no more choose than you can choose to be black or white or left-handed.”
She documented her journey on social media and in the process became the army’s transgender representative.
She says the military has been fantastic in its support.
“They’ve had a policy since 1999 to support transgender people. The army really gets it because we have a really difficult job to do. You want the person next to you to be good at their job – you don’t care whether they’re transgender, gay, black or Muslim.”
SLast year Jake wrote and directed a short film called Headspace about the trials and tribulations faced by the trans community, which went viral on the internet.
“Trans people look to us and say we’ve given them hope about finding love,” he says.
“My biggest concern when I was starting my transition, and I think it was Hannah’s as well, was never finding love because trans people are often made to feel ugly and not worthy of love.
“So if we’re inspiring a new generation of trans people to find someone for them, that’s a huge honour.”
He says people shouldn’t worry about using the wrong terms around them.
“We don’t want people to be walking around feeling like they’re on eggshells. For years my mom used to call me by my old name but it was coming from a place of love. It’s a learning process for all of us.”
They’re fortunate in that both sets of parents are supportive. “For many it’s a huge shock but I’ve been lucky – my parents have always said, ‘If you’re happy, we’re happy’,” Hannah says.
Jake says his mom “cried for her little girl” for a year after his transition.
“Obviously it was heartbreaking but she’s just been amazing since then. She’s my own personal cheerleader.”
The couple – who are patrons of the UK transgender children’s charity Mermaids – will live in the married quarters near Hannah’s army barracks.
“I’m just another girl,” she says, “married to another guy.”
‘My biggest concern when transitioning was never finding love’
SOURCES: PINKNEWS.CO.UK, THESUN.CO.UK, DAILYMAIL.CO.UK
Jake Graf, who was assigned female at birth, and Hannah Winterbourne, who was assigned male at birth, recently got married in London.
ABOVE: They say they’re just like any other couple. BELOW: Hannah and Jake in Central Park, New York, where he proposed.