As a 999 police call handler, Will Ambler is faced with having to make tough life-saving decisions on a daily basis, but behind the computer screen and telephone he has faced a life-defining period of his own.
Here, Will, 40, a communications officer controller for North Yorkshire Police, talks openly and honestly about his transgender journey and the moment he faced his own fears to tell his colleagues about his life-changing decision to finally become comfortable in his own skin.
He said: “I’ve known that I was in the wrong body since a very young age, probably about four.
“I’m very close to my brother Simon and I think for the most I just thought I wanted to be him as I idolised him. As I grew up I thought I was gay.
“I was married for 14 years, but obviously this didn’t work out.
“I’d often have conversations about wearing boys’ clothes. I hadn’t worn anything other than the obvious (upper body) since I was about 20 years old.”
Two years ago, Will made the brave decision to change his gender.
His line manager at North Yorkshire Police, Lynn Broadbent was one of the first people he told about his decision. “I can remember it like it was yesterday,” he said.
“It felt like this huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
“At the same time I had never been more scared, knowing that my life was going to change in ways I couldn’t imagine.
“The hardest part was that I truly believed that all those I held dear – my family and my friends – would all disown me.
“I was worried that my friends at work would treat me differently.
“When I started at the police I was in an openly gay relationship and that was how people knew me. I had never had any issues at this point. It almost felt like I had gone back in time, or so I thought.”
On reflection, Will says he should have had more faith in those around him and credits those closest to him for their support, something for which he is thankful for everyday.
It is in fact his mum’s reaction that he holds most dear.
“She was beyond incredible,” he fondly recalls.
“Her words will resound with me forever, having lost her just before my first surgery.
“She told me she had always known.
“I am one of three and have an older brother and sister.
“There wasn’t a single member of my family or friends that was shocked.”
The day Will told his colleagues about his decision to change sex was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do and is a moment that will remain with him forever.
He recalls: “Time was short, so on the 12th hour I decided to come in and hold a briefing at work, in front of my peers and managers.
“Anyone how knows me will know that I am not shy and I always have plenty to say. I don’t think I looked up the entire time I was talking. I felt as though my heart was beating out of my chest.
“Not one person in that room walked out without shaking my hand or giving me a hug. That moment will remain with me forever.
“How lucky am I to work with some incredible people?”
Will admits that being transgender while working in a police force is quite rare and his managers have worked closely with him to ensure he is supported, even when it came to him having his work identification updated after his surgery.
Will had surgery to the top half of his body in October 2017 and described it as a “real changing” point for him. He also had to endure a further operation following a car crash as a result of the bad snow that year.
He said: “I am lucky enough to have had my top surgery done, which was a real changing point for me.
“Sadly, shortly afterwards, I was in an accident and subsequently had to have my chest opened up again. This was a number of months after my initial surgery and some of this time was spent away from work.
“Again, the support I had from my line manager and human resources were incredible. I even had an email of support from the Chief. It seems small, but it’s amazing the difference it makes to know people are rooting for you.”
Will is now waiting to have further surgery as part of his transitional journey.
He said: “I now have to wait around a year for further surgery, but I have realised something else that is just as important and that is my mental health, both need to be given the same time and care.
“I do get sick now more than I ever did before. I joke that man flu is real, but it is believed to be all linked with testosterone and sadly it does have a lot of negative effects.
“However, without it I wouldn’t be the self-made man I am today, or have the makings of a moustache.
“I couldn’t be more grateful that I am able to live the life I do.”
Throughout his experience, Will credits his partner Kirsty for helping him get through the difficult times.
He said: “Falling in love with her was the easiest thing in the world.
“She is the kindest, most wonderful woman I know, and I know if my parents had still been around they would have loved her, and the kids, and hopefully if we are lucky, the kids we have together.
“She has helped me with every ailment and there have been so many.
“She has been my rock and stood by me the entire time without complaining. She is the best person I know.”