You might already have come across her story, as it was widely reported a few years ago, under headlines like Sex Change Soldier. There was a sympathetic UK TV documentary a few years ago, which is what first drew Jan to my attention, and you can see it all (in sections) on YouTube.
According to Wikipedia's article about her, Jan was born Ian Hamilton in Belfast, but was raised in Stonehaven, near Aberdeen in Scotland. At the age of about 19, Hamilton joined the army and served for 4 years, before leaving to become a television cameraman. This was successful, and Hamilton's media career progressed rapidly to senior management level. However, in 1995, at the age of about 31, Hamilton rejoined the army.
Going into the army was my final stab at saying no: I've got to be a guy, because that's what everybody wants me to be. And I thought: right, if I'm going to prove I am the tougest of the tough, then I'm going to be a paratrooper. There are no finer soldiers in the world.Hamilton joined the Parachute Regiment in 2002 and underwent Special Forces training. Captain Hamilton served in the Gulf, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq in a variety of senior positions and in different missions, and was decorated. In March 2007, Hamilton was diagnosed with Gender-Identity Disorder, and changed his name to Jan, prompted by an injury sustained in the line of duty.
I hated myself, and I hated the world, and I hated being in the world.Unfortunately, a tabloid newspaper got hold of the story, before Jan had had a chance to talk things through with the army, or her family. To prevent herself being depicted as a "circus freak", Jan went public with her story through a different newspaper, with disastrous consequences.
Jan wanted to continue her army career post transition, but was summarily dismissed from the army. In addition, her own comrades posted online comments about her which are so vicious, so poisonous, that even catching a glimpse of them now on YouTube is deeply upsetting to me. Thankfully, the resolution isn't high enough for them to be read. Most upsetting of all, to me (and clearly, to her) was the reaction of her parents, who sent her all her possessions and a note saying "Our son is dead. Never contact us again." I can't imagine how much pain this caused her.
I find it difficult to understand the complete rejection by people that I care about.Jan had a series of cosmetic surgical operations, including full gender reassignment in Thailand in 2008. When the first 12-hour surgery was finished, the only person waiting for her in the recovery ward was the TV reporter who filmed the documentary.
It's time to say goodbye to Ian. He's done everything he could do for me. He kept me alive. And Ian has been wonderful to me. But no, he has to go. But I'll always remember him.
For a while when I came back I was quite "up" because I thought, well, people just see a good-looking woman now. Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion now that people see a good-looking transsexual, actually. I will only ever be a good approximation of a woman, and that's that. So.Since the documentary was aired, Jan has made several other media appearances, but it's been difficult to follow her personal life in any way: once again, no public blog. Wikipedia suggests Hamilton has made her peace with the army, and has received a letter from the Regimental Colonel of the Parachute Regiment to thank her for her "years of loyal service as an Airborne Officer". In addition, Hamilton was the first serving British Army officer to change gender, although officers from the Navy and Air Force had previously transitioned. Wikipedia suggests the Army has now set in place a procedure for dealing with serving officers who wish to change gender. It was widely reported that Hamilton received a six-figure payout from the Army for her distress; this caused even more antagonism but is untrue. The most recent news seems to be that Hamilton has joined the police force in 2009 as a female Police Constable, under a new name.
Here I am. I'm 43. I'm not young any more, and I've got to create a life for myself somehow. I've got to start everything at the beginning again, and I'm just not sure if I can do it. My heart is bursting. I am just so bloody lonely all the time.Was it worth it?
Oh yes. Not just worth it. Ten times worth it. A hundred times worth it. I'm a woman now, and I'm happy. Truly.So much for the official biography. Here are my impressions of what I've seen.
First, in common with every transsexual I have ever met, this is a deeply fractured individual. Transitioning has cost Jan everything: her career, her family, her relationships, a considerable amount of money. And, as she herself alludes above, she hasn't completely achieved womanhood. The personal suffering she has undergone troubles me deeply, and the cruelty meted unjustly to her by people who have no idea of her suffering troubles me even more deeply. She has shown enormous courage by pursuing her transition in the face of such difficulty.
Second, Hamilton's story reminds me of something I described in an earlier blog post, that one can be both strongly masculine and strongly feminine at the same time. Here is someone who illustrates that clearly, although was able to express only one side at any given time.
Thirdly, Hamilton, like me, seems to be someone for whom emotional expression is a fundamental necessity. People like us have two essential psychological requirements: we require to be loved unconditionally, and we require some sort of sensual pleasure (whether that be food, fragrances, colours, whatever). We love to surround ourselves with friends, and with comfortable, welcoming surroundings. Hamilton's loneliness and rejection post-transition is something I can deeply relate to: loneliness is agony for me, and clearly for Jan too. On the other hand, if we fail to have our needs met, we are capable of intense bursts of white-hot anger. I can see that it was in this frame of mind that Captain Ian Hamilton might have operated most of the time.
It won't surprise you at all that most people with this psychological profile are women; nor that men who have it struggle to be able to have their needs met in socially "acceptable" ways. I am fortunate that I can just about manage it most of the time, with a few ups and downs along the way. But my downs are nowhere near as down as Jan's have been. I only hope she has had a few ups along the way too.
Fourthly, the treatment that Hamilton received from the army reminds me of how much I would hate to be any part of any military organisation. I am far too much of a free thinker. Put me in combat fatigues and give me a gun: I would be useless. But that's not to say I would have nothing to offer my country: put me in Bletchley Park with a bunch of like-minded misfits, and we will win the war for you!
Finally, in my correspondence with other people, I have repeatedly stated that my view that crossdressing cannot be cured. I believe Jan Hamilton's story is further evidence of this; that no amount of vigorous military discipline can "make a man out of you". You are who you are. You can suppress it, or embrace it. There may be unhappiness in either direction, of course, but you can be unhappy for who you are, or unhappy for who you are not. Take your pick.
Jan Hamilton is making the best of who she is. I deeply sympathise and admire her for her choices, and I wish her nothing but the very best for the future.
Addendum 2nd May 2014
Though my continued efforts to contact Jan Hamilton have been fruitless, I managed to interview Treva Askey, another British soldier who transitioned. You can read the interview here.
And for more about my thoughts about transgender people in the military, read this post.
Addendum: 6th October 2015
Jan Hamilton has finally made contact with me! Now named Abigail Austen, she has written a book describing three years working as an advisor for the US military in Afghanistan. She has kindly agreed to be interviewed for this blog, and you can read my exclusive interview with her here.
I was truely touched by this womans bravery to be true to herself and follow her heart. It was clearly not an easy choice to make and the hurt and rejection that she has experienced bought a tear to my eye. I wish Jan all the luck and love in the world....have a lovely life xxReplyDelete
Hi Louise. Thanks for posting.Delete
Jan is a true inspiration, i cried at first then celebrated on her behalf . I adore you Jan Hamilton and your courage. thank you for publishing this Vivianne.Delete
Thanks for commenting, Nikki.Delete
Hi, I watched this documentary yesterday, I was so moved by this, so much pain personally and physically had to be endured. Does anyone know how I can contact Jan I wanted to be able to tell her how moved I was and how life is for her these days, if anyone knows of an address please leave a reply, it is in good faith, I am genuine and would like to friends with Jan xDelete
I think this documentary has given people the courage to speak out and change to the right gender and not live their life in the wrong body because there are more items in the papers these days, just last week I read of an 11 yr old who was born a girl but always thought she was a boy, and now is going to start taking hormones to stop developing any further into womanhood until old enough for any surgery necessary, I was overwhelmed and have nothing but admiration for Jan who showed great courage, why do people have to say such hateful things they do not have to life their life.Delete
Something I don't get is what is the experience that leads people to feel like they're trapped in the wrong body? Is there anything on your blog that gets into that experience?ReplyDelete
I haven't posted anything about that personally, since I have never felt like I am trapped in the wrong body. For a very full discussion, I refer you to Cloudy's blog, On the Science of Changing Sex; specifically the FAQ page here: http://sillyolme.wordpress.com/faq-on-the-science/
In brief, Cloudy's belief's are based on the Freund-Blanchard model, which suggests that only about 10% of transsexuals really feel this way. They persistently and unremittingly adopt clothing and mannerisms and the role of the other sex, and transition as rapidly as possible, by about 25 at the latest. Cloudy calls these people HSTS, or transkids.
As for the actual experiences of these people, I have nothing to offer you, but Cloudy, an ex-transkid herself, has a lot on her blog which may be pertinent.
(A potentially difficult corollary of the theory is that the other 90%, including Jan Hamilton here, don't really feel that way; certainly not lifelong, though they themselves may insist that they do. Most of them make a reasonable stab at living and functioning in their birth sex, and most of them feel some element of sexual arousal by cross-gender behaviour, two things which seem absent from the HSTS 10%).
Cloudy herself tried to make contact with you here on my blog, but you might have missed it since she mistakenly called you Rebecca! She's at the very bottom of the comments list currently. (http://bluestockingblue.blogspot.co.nz/2012/12/cloudy-with-chance-of-insights.html)
I was very touched when watching Jan's story on TV last week. I can't imagine what she has been through physically, mentally and emmotionally - but her grace and dignity through it all was inspiring. She has great inner strength and i wish her health and happinessReplyDelete
Thanks for posting! Vivienne.Delete
Hi. I am also a Trans woman and I know what Jan has gone through. I wish Jan all the best in her life. I hope she can rebuild her life and finally fine true happnessReplyDelete
Thanks for dropping by to post your supportive comments. V.Delete
I wonder if it's ok to post this. I don't want it to come across that I'm in any way dissing transgender or transvestite folks, as I'm not at all, and have known a few. I often wonder though, as one of a fair few women around who doesn't dress up in make-up, scents, dresses, and so on, why dressing in such ways in identified as being specifically womanly - other than as by some in the society around us? The outer layer doesn't make the gender, and it's certainly ok by me, and many I know, whatever anyone wears (I know there is much prejudice faced by those who dress differently, and I'm not belittling that), whatever their sex. I do just wonder, sometimes, if it's possiible to extend this further - that while your gender need not be defined by your dress, neither need it be defined by your body - it's really inside your head? I said earlier that I'm a 'woman', and I am , specifically, but also have a very androgynous appearance to the 'general' eye, and an extremely androgynous mind, when examined in detail. I often buy male clothes, as they're tougher and last longer. I just wonder. If a person doesn't feel they have to 'conform' to a basically made-up social stereotype of what's 'manly' or 'womanly' and could dress or behave much more freely across a spectrum, would some of these issues recede? Or is it just easier for me to think like this, because I'm somewhere in the middle and it's ok for me to scruff around in trousers and mens shirts etc. and drink pints etc. than for a bloke to wear lippy and heels and I haven't really got a clue what it's like to have a closet femme bursting to get out? Just some thoughts. I hate to think people may be being forced By this society to conform when it's not necessary. Good wishes to all. And the freedom to do what you will. Annie.ReplyDelete
Many thanks for dropping by and taking the trouble to comment on this post.
My opinion is that the reason why transvestites love very feminine clothing and makeup, is because transvestites don't want to be like women, they want to be like men think women are. From the point of view of (many) men, femininity resides in clothes, heels, cosmetics, boobs, and so on (and I think that's why many transvestites are drawn to what they consider female archetypes: maids, brides, schoolgirls, etc). From the point of view of women, femininity resides in very different things. Helen Boyd remarks that if you want to feel like a woman, you should do a pile of ironing.
I tend to think that "masculinity" and "femininity" are not mutually exclusive. One can be predominantly one or the other, quite strong in both, or quite strong in neither.
Your dress sense may be the exact opposite of one of my correspondents, Ralph! http://ralphinadress.wordpress.com/
You might also be interested to leave a comment on my other blog post, "Women Who Crossdress". http://bluestockingblue.blogspot.co.nz/2012/10/women-who-crossdress.html
I just posted and forgot to say - it was watching Jan's programme recently that brought me here - I really felt for her, and could only begin to imagine the difficulties involved and the courage and determination required to continue on. I too hope her life becomes good and rewarding again and the pain and loneliness we saw is overcome. Annie.ReplyDelete
It was coincidence that I posted this when I did, but there has been an unexpected flood of hits on it, which made me wonder whether the documentary had been screened again!Delete
Thanks for posting your supportive comments.
I could love Jan.totally and sincerely.......Not just short term.Proper loveis not transiant.JDelete
Hi J. Thanks for posting. I am sure you are not the only one who feels this way. It isn't clear from the internet whether Jan has found someone special, but I hope so.Delete
Hi Vivienne, thanks for posting up my comments, and for your thoughts in return. I was interested in your phrase on 'very feminine clothing and make up' which I thought echoed back to my point that the clothes and make up don't make the feminity - the type of clothing and make up etc. defining the feminity are surely only a stereotype 'slapped on', fairly arbitrarily, it seems to me, by some in society, creating a stereotype, at a given point in time. At another point in time, many blokes, for example, were wearing just as fancy clothes, make up etc., but still being seen as blokes, not as feminine. I, for example, will regard myself as female / androgynous and therefore feminine / androgynous, whatever I wear, blokes clothes included. Similarly, as the clothes don't define the person, I don't think the body should define the person either. If the person inside the body, whatever the external characteristics of that body, regards themselves as a particular gender, shouldn't they be allowed to be self-defining regarding gender, according to their mentality, not the external characteristics? i.e. gender is a state of mind? Could this not be a very freeing realization, away from the social stereotyping of gender that society forces upon us, and our bodies?ReplyDelete
You're right: clothes themselves don't have gender. Plenty of cultures around the world wear skirt-like attire for both genders. I remember seeing "his and hers" toilet signs in the Middle East. Instead of the male stick figure and female triangle-dress figure we are used to, the figures were both stylised silhouettes of people wearing a floor-length robe, but the female figure was pinched in round the middle, where the male one went straight all the way down!
My blog post about High Heels describes how high heels were originally attire for men (to stop the heel from slipping out of the stirrup when riding a horse).
I agree that it would be lovely for us all to decide what gender we are, and how we want to dress. I hear this theme repeated in many forms on many different blogs, and interestingly, in quite a few science-fiction books I have read. On the other hand, as things currently stand, societal pressures to conform to one gender or another are enormous. To ignore society's norms carries considerable social penalties: suspicion, rejection, revulsion, even violence. I find myself hoping that in a decade, transgendered people will be as accepted as homosexual people currently are (more and more considered to be "no big deal"). But I am not holding my breath, and I suspect it won't ever be possible for me to just saunter into work in a dress and a pair of kitten heels.
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Is there any contact possible to Jan? Cause I really would like to say to her, that she is so strong, to go this way - she is an example to other people. My mother doesnt love me too and I can understand this feeling, if there is any chance to write to her, please write me back!
Greetings from Germany
Wilkommen! Thanks for dropping by. Unfortunately, I have no way of getting in touch with Jan. She has legally changed her name. I haven't published the name here, but it is quite possible to find using the Internet. I couldn't find any contact details for Jan, and I couldn't find her on Facebook, using either her new name or old one.
One day she might pass by and read this article. I will leave your email address up in case she does. Jan, if you are reading this, I would love to hear from you too!
Im in Australia, ive just watched the sex change soldier, i thought it was incredible, ive never so much wanted to get in touch with such a beautiful person and beautiful soul. I almost fell in love with jan, she has done such a great job for us with gender issues. I so wish she was available, i think our community would embrace her with open arms, so strong, driven, and followed her heart. I immedietely tried to find her on facebook, on the net, but its all a bit of a deadend. I would just love to give her a hug, and thank her. She is always welcome in my home. Where did she purchase those sexy boots, she has great taste in fashion, that red dress/coat etc, ooh la la. I understand why she has gone to ground, but its such a shame we have kind of lost such a generous individual. Would love to hear from her some day, lots of Aussie love Stella xxxx
Thanks for your comment Stella. My attempts to contact Jan have all been unsuccessful. I do hope she might happen by this blog and get in touch. If she does, I will be sure to let you know.Delete
Grok here. Another case worth mention is that of Kristin Beck, MtF transsexual. Became a U.S. Navy Seal and combat veteran, in an attempt to obliterate the hidden female identity. In the long run that didn't work; I suspect that the underlying neurology could not be silenced.ReplyDelete
Tonight I watched Jans story on abc2 here in Aus. I am a 25 year old straight woman and I have always had a respect and admiration for anyone who is able to show their true selves. Jan is someone who alot of confused and scared people can look up to. Never be ashamed of who you are and if that person is different to the person you were born as so be it. Sometimes you need to change in order to feel completely happy and comfortable within your own skin and that is nothing to be ashamed about. I have nothing but love to give especially to those who face difficulties in life and Jan was one person I will always admire. You look and are a beautiful person!ReplyDelete
The show on jan was aired tonight first time ive seen it.i could not believe that jan felt that nobody really loved her. Everyone close to her turned their back on her.i cried watching it thinking the pain she must have been going through and how lonely she was. How scarey not to have a support network. I could never reject my family friends especially my own child because of a decision they have made to be happier.Jan is an inspiration such a strong beautiful person and great role model that proves to people to not give up. I just want to hug her.ReplyDelete
Hi Jan I am just watching your story. I have gone though so much. I think you are a brave person. don't feel like your alone. true I don't know what you are going though. but I except you for who you are. I wish everyone else could chin up girl friend all my. love ChrisReplyDelete
The documentary is airing now in Australia. I watch with fascination, the medical wonders, and her strength. I also watch with sadness, and, dare I say disgust, of the ignorance and discrimination she has to endure.ReplyDelete
Beautiful woman, and I hope happiness has found her now.
Re:- program aired on ABC2 in Australia, last eve.ReplyDelete
As an Intersex I understand Jan's problems as I have researched them, but not for me.
I had always thought that I was not a male, but was not sure that I was a female either. I live in the "in the between world", Androgynously.
Remember my mottos Jan "Always look on the bright side of life"
And be POSITIVE in all things.
Take care and good luck in your new life..
Thanks so much for posting your supportive comments about Jan. Wherever she is, I hope she finds some strength knowing there is such support out there.
"Interesting blog... This has only just been aired in Australia which is typical. Devastating story the first time around and more so the second given how far we have come with trans and Intersex issues and emergence of critical Intersex. I hope 'Jan' has finally found her place and living it well, as all good folk want."
CatherineB, I have declined to publish your link because I am attempting to preserve Jan's anonymity. In any case, I think the information in it is already out of date.
No problem at all. Thanks for adding my comment nonetheless. CatherineDelete
I too just watched Jan's program and was so sad for her and yet inspired by her determination. She is not alone and her friends will become her family. I was sorry to read that she didn't complete her police training but I hope she has found something satisfying and enjoyable to do to give her life real meaning. Courageous ladyReplyDelete
I have just watched Jans documentary in Australia (I'm originally from England) I think she is an inspirational and courageous woman! People can be very cruel and ignorant. I also think that there are people who are very supportive and there should be more people like that, I am so sorry that people can be so cruel!! Aren't we taught that we should accept people for who they are? I think she is a beautiful woman both on the inside and out. I seriously think that doing this documentary for, myself and others has open my eyes to what struggles a woman who is viewed as a man by their skin has to go through in order to get to that person who has always been there, to be seen in the mirror. I find it so sad that people due to ignorance for want of a better word will judge a person (Man going through the same) when they have not been through these struggles and torments. I hope that Jan is happy in what ever she is doing now and wish her all the happiness in the world. She is truly wonderful! And I thank you for being so honest and beautiful in your documentary. I have never been through this myself or known anyone who has, but if I ever do I will be behind them all the way. Why should you go through life not being the person you are?!ReplyDelete
oh and I cried, I hope Jan can see the support rather than the negatives!! xxxxReplyDelete
I was very touched when watching Jan's story on TV this week in Australia. I can't imagine what she has been through physically, mentally and emmotionally - but her grace, dignity and determination through it all was inspiring. She has great inner strength and i wish her health and happiness for the rest of her life. She is true fighter and believer in herself.ReplyDelete
I was wondering if you could link me to somehow get in contact with Jan and her new Identity. My email address is email@example.com and its purely to send a letter of support. I have been so emotional since I watched her doco last week I cannot get her words of despair out of my mind. I may only be a 23 year old gay girl writing to a 40something transgender woman but I want so badly to show my support.
I want her to know, even from the other side of the world, she is loved.
Thanks again to all of you for your supportive comments to Jan. As I said above, I don't have any means of contacting her, Molly, though I have tried. I will leave your email address up in case she happens to come by and wants to get in touch for herself.Delete
Molly, I would also add that we saw a long period of Jan's life compressed into one hour of television. Though it was poignant and moving, I am sure it is not the full story of Jan's feelings, and I am sure she has had periods of joy and fulfilment also. There has been so much support voiced here, on this blog alone, that it seems impossible to me that Jan is not in touch with more support, near where she is.
Jan what an amazing journey you took to become the person you are today.My heart sank knowing that you faced all that you did alone.I would love to know since making your documentary have you found love and are you on Facebook.Im so in oar of your determination and disapline both pshyically and mentally.How are your finding life now?I really hope your heart is at peace and that you are now treated in the way all of us expect to be.Your a very pretty person both in and out.You never were nor will ever be a freck.Your simply human which started out with gender imperfections.Thank you for sharing your story Jan.Good bless you and a massive thank you to Ian whom sacraficed so much to make our world a better place to liveReplyDelete
Thanks for your comment.Delete
just finished watching the documentary about Jan. What an inspiration she is and dare I say it takes big balls to do what she's done. I would like her to know that I love and admire her courage. If she lived here in Sydney or if I lived in the UK I would love to be her friend and offer her all the support and encouragement that friends give each other.
I salute her and wish her all the best and much love for the rest of her life.
If she ever happens across this blog I hope she gets in touch.
And thank-you Vivienne for the opportunity to express these words.
Thanks for your supportive comments.
Comme je t'aime et t'admire Jane, j'ai besoin de quelqu'un comme toi pour m'aider dans ce si difficile parcours que tu as vaincue seule. JE N'AI PAS LA FORCE ET TON COURAGE, J'AI SI PEUR DE LA MÉCHANCETÉ "HUMAINE".ReplyDelete
PLEASE JANE... HELP ME!!!!!!! TALK TO ME BY YOU TUBE. IF YOU WANT. PLEASE....... I'M A LOST FRENCH TRANSGENDER.
The French part of Laura's message reads:Delete
Since I love you and admire you, Jan, I need someone like you to help me in this difficult journey which you have completed alone. I don't have your strength and your courage. I am so afraid of "human" malice.
I decided to publish this comment because it seemed genuinely heartfelt, even though I have no contact with Jan. Perhaps someone can pass along the message.
have just seen jans story on abc australia channel2/childrens channel. myself and the children watching this story were reduced to tears by the treatment of her by press,familyReplyDelete
and paras . ABC2 has reguarly been showing
transgen storys to inform and educate the
new generations of aussys and breakdown
the nasty negative culture that jan
encounterred post being blown up in
afganistan.The treatment of this war veteran was digraceful and a depressing example of how the Paratroop regiment , the Paratroop family does not look after their own post being blown up in afganistan after years of service for queen and country. They will rot in hell on judgement day.
Thanks for dropping by to post your comment.Delete
I hope you followed the link to my much more recent blog post about Abi (as she is now known). She is much happier and doing much better.
I would hesitate to condemn anyone to "rot in hell". I do think there is ample opportunity for those people to reconsider their position, see the wrong, and make apologies or amends. And I think some people do come to see the error of their position.