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From struggle to strength: Rachel's transition

Posted March 28, 2024

We're proud to share a message written by Rachel, a member of our very own LGBTQ+ Network. At EDF, our employee networks are integral to our inclusive culture, they are open to all and support our people whilst advocating for positive change.

Hi, I’m Rachel Cruz, Energy Specialist and Site Lead for the LGBTQ + Supporters Network, and also Site Lead LGBTQ + Officer for Unison. 

Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV) observed worldwide and raises awareness about transgender people. A day to celebrate the lives and contributions of Transgender people, and also drawing attention to the poverty, discrimination, and violence, that the community faces.

I’ve been transitioning for nearly 9 years and have been on estrogen for 8 years. April 25th will mark 5 years post GRS (Gender Reassignment Surgery), and I’m nearly 3 years post breast augmentation.

Life for me is good. It’s what you make it. We all have a story to tell, so here’s mine, and the fact that I’m here today, is quite a miracle in itself.

Let me take you back to where it really began

It was 1953, my dad and his brother Charlie were at a Dance hall. My uncle Charlie approached my mum first, asking her out to the cinema the following day, agreeing to meet her at hers at 7pm. My dad turned up at 6pm, and said to my mum, that Charlie couldn’t make it, and that he’d take her to the cinema instead (unbeknownst to my uncle Charlie...). My mum, relieved to see my dad, confessed it was actually him she fancied and was pleased to see him.

Two days later they were married. The honeymoon phase didn't last very long as my dad left to train with his squadron for the war and was due to head out for Burma. Before he was due to leave, he got the news that his father had been killed in combat, granting him compassionate leave, and his squadron left for Burma without him. Shortly after, he found out his entire squadron had been killed. 

The start of my story

After the war, my parents had four children, the eldest my sister, then twin boys, and finally another boy. Their family was complete. But after feeling unwell one day, my mum found out that she was pregnant yet again, with me! It was a total shock, as I wasn’t planned, but Rachel Cruz was determined to be here wasn’t she?

I remember dressing up at 4 years old, wearing my mums shoes, and playing shop and house with my niece, it felt quite normal. As the years passed, I continued to dress up in secret, and would buy clothes, dress up, and would then feel guilty, and would throw everything out. This cycle would repeat for many years. 

I got engaged for the first time at 18 years of age, and even got into bodybuilding. At 22, I weighed 25 stone and would train in the gym 3 hours a night, 6 days a week, simply to escape who I truly was. When I was 43, I got engaged for the 6th time, and was with my fiancé for 5 years, and I’d not dressed up in secret once. I had this beat. 

My wedding day

The day of my wedding came, and as I was standing at the alter with my best man, I heard the organist start to play, this was it. She stood beside me, she looked so beautiful she took my breath away. But from nowhere, I said to her that I had something to tell her. We excused ourselves from the priest, and went into a room at the side of the altar. 

I said to her that I couldn’t marry her, in order to be true to her and myself, I told her I was a Transgender woman. I’d carried this with me for over forty years, and I didn’t expect myself to say it on our wedding day.

Life after the wedding

We went our separate ways, and I got myself a flat on the very top floor of a tower block on the 25th floor. Over the following months I felt worthless, so much so I considered suicide. But from nowhere I thought, Someone has to find me? What if I survive the fall? Surely I’m worth more than this?

In November that year I became homeless. I walked around for hours that night, thinking about where I could sleep safely. I found some bushes down by Manchester ship canal, and backed myself up into them, so nobody could see me. It was so cold, I couldn’t sleep. The next morning I registered as homeless with the council, and they found me accommodation, as I was a vulnerable woman.

The first day of the rest of my life, as Rachel

The day came and after passing an interview for a job, not just any job, but my first job as Rachel. I arrived at the office building, and as I got to the front door, I froze with fear. This was to be the first day of the rest of my life. I took a deep breath, opened the door, and stepped inside. Rachel was here, and here to stay.

I now own my own home, have a great job, working for such an inclusive company that champions ED&I, and I’m engaged to be married to my fiancé Michelle, in September 2025. She proposed to me on Christmas Day 2022 (it felt so different not going down on one knee myself!).

So now you know why TDoV is so important to me, and to my trans brothers and sisters worldwide. I would like to leave you with a mantra, that has got me through all of life’s challenges on my transitional journey.

You can rise up from anything.
You can completely recreate yourself.
Nothing is permanent.
You’re not stuck.
You have choices.
You can think new thoughts, you can learn something new.
You can create new habits.
All that matters is that you decide today, and never look back.

Thank you for taking the time, to read my story.