A Tory MP who announced last month that he is trans has said he hopes to begin the process of transitioning "as quickly as possible" and hailed the "incredible amount of support" since he came out.
Speaking on Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Jamie Wallis, MP for Bridgend, also described his experiences of rape and blackmail.
Mr Wallis acknowledged the transition process will be "challenging and difficult" with "lots of hurdles", saying: "It’s not going to be done overnight, it’s going to take many, many years."
But he added: "I think now that I am out and people do know, I’m free to start that and actually go on that journey at a pace that I find comfortable."
‘Maybe there was some sort of horrible mistake’
Asked why it is he feels that he is a woman, Mr Wallis said: "I have gender dysphoria… that is the medical diagnosis that is required for a legal change of gender but it is also the condition that describes that lack of reconciliation between what you look like and what your body says and how you feel on the inside."
Mr Wallis, who said he currently still prefers the pronouns he and him, revealed he has felt this way for a "very long time".
"I was eight years old when I was trying to work out what this was… because there wasn’t the ready access to the internet and there wasn’t anyone else in my community at home that felt like this or that I knew about," he said.
"So I had absolutely no idea what it was and I remember being eight and trying to work out whether this was something that affected just me or whether there were other people that might feel like this.
"I came to the wrong conclusion. At the time I thought that it was just me and maybe there was some sort of horrible mistake or something had gone very wrong."
‘I’m no longer ashamed of this’
Mr Wallis said he spent a lot of time trying to hide who he was and "sort of run away from it", not letting people know how he felt.
"I just remember being really frightened, scared," he said.
He described the important moment when he realised he was not alone and that other people experienced similar things to him.
"About a year ago, maybe about six or eight months ago, I woke up one day and I realised actually I am no longer ashamed of this.
"This is who I am, this is what I want and actually I have waited a long time to feel that way."
Mr Wallis said his emotional statement on Twitter last month, in which he revealed he was transgender, was "probably inevitable" after that realisation.
Following his announcement, Mr Wallis was widely praised for his bravery by MPs from across the political spectrum, including Boris Johnson who said his message "would have taken an immense amount of courage".
‘A part of me died’
In his interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Mr Wallis was asked about what he had said in the statement about his experience of rape.
He continued: "I met someone that I liked and things started off quite well.
"Then I was not okay with not being what I consider to be responsible and safe practice in the bedroom, so I withdrew consent and then there was… then he just decided that he was going to do it anyway and I was powerless to stop him and in that moment a part of me died and I have been trying to get it back ever since."
Asked if he had managed to get that part of himself back, he replied: "No."
"I tried to forget about it for a few weeks and it almost worked, almost worked but then you start getting nightmares, flashbacks, it starts occupying every one of your thoughts and you find yourself just staring off into the distance because you’re thinking about it again and that’s when I chose to get some help.
"Like I said in my statement, I’m not okay, I’m not the person I was before that happened but I am at least in a place where I can get on with my life whilst I am dealing with it."
Mr Wallis spoke about how many people had contacted him after his statement in March to report similar experiences.
He said: "I think what is truly frightening actually is after I said what I said, there has been a shocking number of people getting in touch with me to say that something similar has happened to them and that has changed my whole thinking and has made me become very concerned about the potential for this to be a much more pervasive issue than I think a lot of people currently think it is."
Outpouring of support following blackmail ordeal
Also detailed in his March statement on Twitter was his experience being blackmailed over his gender identity.
He said: "I was in a very dark place, someone had got this information and had evidence of it and they blackmailed me – but the police were fantastic.
"Not only did they take it seriously but they got a successful outcome, so the CPS, the police, were really good."
Since putting out the statement, Mr Wallis said he has received an "incredible amount of support".
Asked what advice he would give to a young person grappling with their gender identity, he said: "I waited and a lot of young people right now I think are dealing with gender issues and my advice to them would be, you’ve got a long life.
"I wouldn’t wait as long as I’ve waited, I’m 37 – maybe you can move a little bit quicker than that – but actually there’s absolutely nothing wrong with just taking some time and discovering yourself and don’t feel rushed to pick up a label or view it in any way.
"But when you know who you are and you are ready and you want to tell the world and assert that, there are people like myself here that are waiting and we’re welcoming, we’re friendly and we’re here to help and support."
The Rape Crisis helpline is available in the UK – 0808 802 9999
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