Why I had a sex change operation

The Making of Miranda tells the story of farmer Rhodri Davies's decision to become nurse Miranda Ponsonby at the age of 56. Features editor Joni Ager talks to Miranda, now 76, about her transformation from gentleman to gentlewoman.

Rhodri Davies was born into an upper-middle class family.

They lived in Wimbledon Common and he and his siblings were largely brought up by their nanny. They would be taken down to their parents for half an hour each evening, as was the done thing.

When war broke out in 1939, the family left London and moved to Cornwall. Rhodri went to boarding school and when he finished his schooling he went to Africa to work on the family's cattle farm for two years.

He returned to the UK with the hope of going to Oxford University but he was called up to do National Service with the Life Guards. This turned into a 10-year career with the army, serving in Egypt and Aden and eventual promotion to the rank of captain.

Rhodri left the army to take over the family's cattle farm in the Welland Valley and after meeting his wife June on a course for riding instructors, they married and had two children.

But after 30 years of marriage, Rhodri left his wife and decided to become a woman.

Miranda, as she is now known, said: "I had got to the age of the 'male menopause' and I always say I ran off not with another woman but with myself.

"I had had enough and I wanted something else in my life.

"It was totally my fault."

But this wasn't an overnight personality change - Miranda says she had always known she was a woman in a man's body.

She said: "Ever since I was born I thought I was a woman. I used to have baths full of pink soapy liquid and I remember a doctor telling me once I was really a girl in my mind.

"Over the years I just put up with it but after the divorce I decided to do something about it. The children had left home, my eldest son took over the business and it seemed the right time."

She went to see her GP who told her she would have to live as a woman for at least three years before they would carry out transgender surgery to prove she was serious about the sex change.

But Miranda couldn't wait and instead had the operation done privately at a clinic in Rotherham in March 1989.

She went into the clinic looking and dressing as a man and left a woman.

To prove the point, Miranda joined a dating agency and arranged a date with a man. She laughs as she recounts how the man turned up early for their meeting and found Miranda in her masculine farmer's overalls.

She told him 'You must be looking for my sister' and rushed upstairs to change into her feminine clothes. Her date was none the wiser.

With the sex change came a new career and after being turned down for a medicine degree because of her age, she decided to train as a nurse, becoming the oldest person ever to qualify in the NHS.

She has been working at Kettering General Hospital for the past 10 years and is currently in the coronary care unit.

She has come up against some prejudice over the years, including once being physically threatened by a patient, but says it is the quality of her work that has kept her in a job.

She tends not to mix with people over the age of 40, preferring instead to have younger friends who she says are more open-minded. She says they describe her as 'eccentric, but I keep them amused'.

She is clearly at peace with both her past and present life as there are photos of her pre- and post-op all over her Gretton home.

But the process has been a huge battle and while she seems content as Miranda, she is well aware of what it has cost her, not least losing contact with her sons, now 50 and 46.

She said: "I regret losing my family and never seeing my grandchildren grow up. My old friends in the hunting set cut me immediately, as did my regiment friends. We were a band of brothers in that regiment and so that was a big blow."

It is perhaps for these reasons that she would advise anyone against having transgender surgery.

She said: "I would say don't do it. I am a very strong person and if you are not you will be destroyed by it."

To buy a copy of The Making of Miranda click here.