Closer (UK)

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

- By Danielle Whitfield For transgende­r support, visit www.gendertrus­

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.”


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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