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
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.
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.”