A former firefighter and truck driver has undergone gender confirmation surgery at the age of 80.

Devout churchgoer Isobel Jeffery began transitioning to female in October 2021 at the age of 79 after living her life as a woman for six years.

After beginning hormone therapy a year ago, she had the operation at the private Spire Yale Hospital in Wrexham in January this year under Consultant Urologist Christian Seipp.

Isobel said: “I cannot tell you how much it has meant to me; the peace, the calm and the contentment that has been brought over me,” she said. 

“People ask me what I am smiling about, and someone asked recently why I was walking taller! Everything has just fallen into place - it was meant to be.

“Now I just want to spread the good news and help others. I feel like 25 – not nearly 81!”

Isobel received the full blessing of Margaret, her beloved wife of almost 60 years.

The Leader: Isobel Jeffery with her beloved wife, Margaret Isobel Jeffery with her beloved wife, Margaret (Image: Spire Yale Hospital/Mandy Jones)

“So many people ask why I left it so long but around 10 to 15 years ago, it was becoming more accepted. The changing attitudes in society gave me more confidence to be who I am,” she said.

“It’s not to be undertaken lightly, of course, but I am proof that you’re never too old. As long as you’re physically able to undertake the surgery, then it can happen.”

Mr Seipp, 56, said he was “extremely touched” by Isobel’s story, and said: “The majority of patients are in their 20s or 30s but quite a few patients wish to complete their transition with gender affirming surgery in their 50s or 60s.

“This is really a story about what it means to be transgender. We are living in a more liberal society now compared to a time when people like Isobel were growing up.”

Born and raised in Marshfield, South Gloucestershire, Isobel grew up as a boy called Andrew Jeffery, alongside four brothers and a sister and now lives in Winsford, in Cheshire.

It was around the age of 10 that she first realised she felt different, playing with her sister pushing dolls prams around.

She said she would have been bullied badly if it wasn’t for her twin brother who stuck up for her.

She added: “I didn’t understand it, I just seemed to feel different. I was dressing up in women’s clothing probably from around 10 or 12. I learned to hide it and was the quiet child at the back normally.”

For the next 40 years, Isobel took on a variety of ‘physical’ jobs to convince the outside world of her masculinity, sailing around the world with the merchant navy on two 18-month voyages, then becoming a firefighter for Bristol City Fire Service. She then went into heavy goods driving and oversized loads.

Isobel met her wife Margret at their local church, and Margret was supportive, even buying clothes in bigger sizes for Isobel to wear.

The Leader: Isobel Jeffery and beloved wife Margret Isobel Jeffery and beloved wife Margret (Image: unknown)

The couple had two children, a son and a daughter, and moved to Winsford in 1967 while Isobel was employed as a truck driver for a Bristol firm.

“It was when Alzheimer’s began to take hold and she was slipping away that I realised I couldn’t go on living how I was. We talked before the Alzheimer’s took over completely and she said to do what you need to do, she wanted me to live and live happily,” said Isobel, who volunteers with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Seven years ago, Isobel told her family and close friends she wanted to transition, the majority of whom were very supportive. She also began to openly dress as female and changed her name by deed poll.

Isobel talked to her GP and received support from the Cheshire and Merseyside Adult Gender Identity Collaborative (CMAGIC) which provides gender dysphoria services including assessment for and diagnosis of gender incongruence, hormone/voice therapy and psychological therapy for individuals transitioning.

With only three hospitals in the UK providing gender affirming surgery on the NHS (two in London and one in Brighton) - and waiting times of more than five years - Isobel decided to use redundancy money she had put aside when she was 50 for private treatment at Spire Yale Hospital.

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Mr Seipp said: “Isobel’s greatest desire was to make her body the way she wanted it to be. Even in the shower, she wouldn’t take off her underwear because she couldn’t look at her male body.

“It’s cruel enough for younger patients to face many years before surgery with hormone treatment in between, it’s even more distressing for someone of Isobel’s age who has dreamt of this her whole life.”

The Leader: Isobel Jeffery with Consultant Urologist Christian Seipp Isobel Jeffery with Consultant Urologist Christian Seipp (Image: Spire Yale Hospital/Mandy Jones)

Isobel added: “I cannot thank Mr Seipp enough, he really is a lovely gentleman. From the first consultation, I don’t know why but when he went to shake my hand I just put my arms around his shoulders and gave him a hug.

“Spire took a lot of pressure off me, and I was really pleased with the service I received. It means that if I end up in hospital or in a care home or some other place, I will be cared for as a female.

“There are sadly lots of unhappy transpeople out there and I feel so lucky to have finally found happiness.”