Facing life as a woman

Gina Philbin  (w110725-7b)
Gina Philbin (w110725-7b)

HER birth certificate says she is a woman. Her passport states she is female.

And she has had the operation to ensure that physically she is no longer a man.

But Gina Philbin, who calls herself cross gender, says she still suffers physical and verbal abuse from people who refuse to accept who she is.

The 63-year-old believes that is because she still has masculine facial features.

Speaking in her Kilton flat, the grandmother and retired civil engineer, said her face was what she was judged on.

“I’ve had the operation to get rid of what I called my cancer, my growth, but people only see my face - and I have the face of a man.”

“I had my gender reassignment surgery on the NHS and I think I should be able to have facial reconstruction and breast surgery as well, but it’s been refused.”

She says facial surgery would cost around £20,000, which she can’t afford to pay for herself.

Since having her surgery Gina has had her birth certificate, passport, and all other official documents changed to show that she is now female.

And there have been times when she has had to produce proof of her new gender.

“I was at Nottingham railway station when I went into the ladies loo. There was another woman in there who saw me and when I came out of the cubicle there were two policemen waiting for me.”

“They asked me what I was doing in there and said they were going to arrest me, so I got my birth certificate and passport out of my handbag and they let me go.”

Gina says the abuse she has suffered in and around Worksop has included attempted rape, being beaten up in the street, being called names by neighbours who she says want to drive her out of her council flat, and being robbed in her own home.

She says that despite reporting all the incidents to the police, nothing seems to change.

Gina was born in Pontefract in 1947 but was abandoned as a baby and ended up spending the first five-and-a-half years of her life in a Catholic children’s home in Doncaster, before being fostered by Don and Ethel Philbin.

She called them mum and dad and they both accepted it when their son Joe chose to start dressing as a girl. It was Ethel who chose the name Gina.

When she left home for Liverpool University, Gina lived as a woman. She is also a fully qualified joiner and bricklayer. Hardly traditional female job in the 1960s, I suggested.

“I had to do something with the brain I’d got,” she said. And she says she was successful at it, becoming site foreman and gaining the respect of the men who worked for her.

Gina has been married three times - while still a man - and has two daughters and several grandchildren. She has a photo of two of them on her wall but no longer has contact with them.

When I accidentally called her a dad she immediately corrected me and said she was a mum and ‘nana G’ to her grandchildren.

“I think and feel like a woman and I really miss seeing them,” she said, with emotion in her voice.

When I ask if her situation makes her lonely she says simply: “Loneliness is something you get used to.”