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WHY I'LL CHANGE GENDER FOR THE 3RD TIME; RIA HOPES FOR ROMANCE AND A FAMILY Born a boy, youngest sex-swap patient at 15, boy again at 18. Now she wants to be woman again.

Byline: | Grace Macaskill

Like many young women, Ria Cooper dreams of one day getting married and having children. But the 23-year-old knows the odds are stacked against her.

Not only because she was born a boy, but because she has now switched gender three times in her short life.

Ria - who was born Brad - became Britain's youngest gender reassignment patient at 15. Doctors controversially backed her belief she was a girl in a boy's body.

She was given blockers to stop her going through puberty, followed by injections of female hormones to impede face and chest hair and trigger the formation of breasts.

But with her life spiralling out of control as she struggled with her new identity - and the fears of never being accepted as a woman - Ria decided to transition back and live her life instead as a gay man.

Before having crucial surgery, she ended her treatment and became Brad again soon after her 18th birthday.

It turned her into the unwitting poster boy for those who claimed teenagers were too young to be given gender reassignment.

But five years on, Ria is more certain than ever that is not the real her - and is making her second attempt at becoming a woman to have the future she always dreamed of.

She said: "I've always known I was female - it was everyone else who was confused, not me. I was wearing make-up and heels at the age of 12, there was no question.

"But I felt under so much pressure from society that six years later I caved in. I was torn. I knew exactly who I was but I also wanted to conform and be 'normal'. "Only now I realise that made me even more unhappy. Now I'm going to be me - and I hope I will finally be happy."

Stung by critics who accused her of "wasting" thousands of pounds of NHS cash on her abandoned transition, Ria has vowed she will fund her own surgery.

She has paid PS5000 to get her dream 34EE breasts, and will have an op next year for her genital surgery.

But as well as finally finding peace, she hopes it will allow her to find the romance and the family she longs for.

Ria said: "One reason I switched back to being male was because I was worried I'd never find love as Ria.

"My past was always just too much for men to take on board when I transitioned the first time. "They'd fall in love with me, knowing my background - but as soon as their friends found out, I'd be dumped.

"But I'm older and wiser now and know exactly who I am. I'm Ria and I'm a woman. There's no turning back. If I can find a man who accepts that and loves me for who I am, that's perfect. If not, I'd still like to be a mum." When Ria, from Hull, became the youngest person in the UK to be prescribed female hormones, they played havoc with her mental health and by 18 she had twice attempted suicide.

Ria knows her torment raises questions over whether she had been too young for gender reassignment. But she insists that is not the case.

She said: "I know some people would say it was all too much, too young. But you know your own mind. You know when you're living life in the wrong body.

"It's not just playing with dolls or wearing make-up. It's absolutely who you are."

I'm older and wiser now and know exactly who I am

CAPTION(S):

TREATMENT Ria as a child, left, had gender reassignment at 15

DREAM Ria says she felt pressure to conform Picture John Gladwin
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 6, 2017
Words:619
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