Dad-of-one: “I’m proud to be Bri­tain’s first trans­gen­der news­reader”

ITV re­porter Jonathan Wil­loughby has amazed view­ers by re­turn­ing to our screens as a woman called In­dia

Closer (UK) - - Closer Contents - By Danielle Whit­field For trans­gen­der sup­port, visit www.gen­dertrust.org.uk

or 10 years, F news­reader Jonathan Wil­loughby was a well-known face on TV, cov­er­ing ma­jor sto­ries for ITV. But through­out his ca­reer, Jonathan har­boured a se­cret: he longed to be a woman.

Af­ter years of tur­moil, the dad-of-one quit his job to pur­sue his dream and, last year, un­der­went gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery. Now she is hap­pily liv­ing as a woman.

A REINVENTION

Sin­gle In­dia, 51, from Blay­don, Cum­bria, says: “My life fi­nally feels com­plete and the pub­lic re­ac­tion has been amaz­ing. I’m proud to be Bri­tain’s first trans­gen­der news­reader.”

In­dia – who is di­vorced and has a 17-year-old son – says: “I was around three when my grandma caught me play­ing with lip­stick and told me boys didn’t play with those things. I was con­fused be­cause, for me, it felt right.

“As I grew up, my feel­ings be­came stronger. I dated girls and got a job work­ing in ra­dio, but I al­ways felt some­thing wasn’t right.”

In­dia mar­ried at 33 and went on to have a son a year later, but got di­vorced shortly af­ter­wards. She ex­plains: “We were more like friends and drifted apart. I didn’t fancy men or women at that point, I wasn’t in­ter­ested in sex or re­la­tion­ships.”

It was around that time In­dia started work­ing for ITV as a news­reader. She says: “It was a dream job, but I still felt un­com­fort­able in my body.

“Over the years it be­came more dif­fi­cult. One day I was in­ter­view­ing a politi­cian and I caught sight of my re­flec­tion wear­ing a sharp suit. I hated my ap­pear­ance and I couldn’t cope any more.”

In­dia left her job in 2010 and started work­ing in PR, where she rein­vented her­self.

She ex­plains: “I’d dressed as a woman be­fore be­hind closed doors, but I de­cided to present my­self as a woman, Joanne, at work. I wore a smart skirt-suit and a lit­tle make-up. I’ve got a slim fig­ure and I’d prac­tised making my voice sound higher so no one thought there was any­thing un­usual about me and saw me as a woman. I moved from Carlisle to an agency in New­cas­tle and, luck­ily, no one recog­nised me from my TV days.

“From then on I lived a dou­ble life. At work I’d wear skirts and heels, then visit my son wear­ing baggy jeans and a foot­ball shirt. My fam­ily and friends were com­pletely obliv­i­ous.”

BREAK­ING THE NEWS

But jug­gling par­al­lel lives took its toll. In 2012 In­dia went to see her GP and was di­ag­nosed as trans­gen­der – she started hor­mone treat­ment shortly af­ter.

She says: “Break­ing the news to my fam­ily was tough. My mum was dev­as­tated be­cause she felt like she’d lost her son, but she’s ac­cepted it now. My ex-wife sup­ported me and my son has been amaz­ing. He just wants me to be happy.”

In Oc­to­ber 2015, In­dia had gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery and changed her name by deed poll. She says: “It was amaz­ing com­plet­ing my tran­si­tion and feel­ing happy in my­self.”

A year af­ter the surgery, In­dia de­cided to re­turn to ITV. She ex­plains: “I loved the job and fi­nally had the con­fi­dence to be my­self. One day I’d like to get into a re­la­tion­ship with a man but, for now, I’m happy be­ing sin­gle. I’m look­ing for­ward to the rest of my life as In­dia.”

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