Meet Mandy: The lost boy who grew up to be a model woman
MANDY Leigh Jones is today living the life she has always wanted to, that of a happy, proud woman, comfortable in her own skin. But it has not come without profound personal loss and years of wrestling with the ghoul of gender dysphoria.
Ms Jones, who is also a Tattoo Pin-up model known as Miss Minnie More Retro, was born a boy in September 1963.
"I wouldn't wish Gender Dysphoria on my worst enemy," she said.
She said it was around the age of eight that she became acutely aware that her thoughts and traits were different to the other little boys that she was growing up with in an outer Brisbane Region.
"I was a little girl inside my head, trying to lead this outward life as a little boy," she said.
"I figured that I was just a bit of a girly sort of boy and kept these thoughts to myself."
An incident when she was 10, would force the already tormented young girl into a deep introspection which would isolate and plague Ms Jones until she would finally come to accept her Gender Dysphoria and take the steps to overcome it.
"My parents and I were watching The Don Lane Show on TV with special guests Molly Meldrum and the famous Australian Les Girls performer Carlotta," she said.
"The little girl in me was filled with amazement and admiration at the sight of Carlotta, but my father commented that someone like that should be put out of their misery."
This condemnation would scar Ms Jones deeply and become the ghoul which would keep her imprisoned in her fortress of Gender Dysphoria for decades.
"You cannot switch Gender Dysphoria off, believe me I have tried. It will kill you if you try to fight it."
Ms Jones said she has attended the funerals of six girls like herself, whose struggle with Gender Dysphoria and the prickly reception society bestows on such individuals, led them to taking their own lives.
It was only after the sudden death of her mother in 1992 that Miss Jones would begin her retaliation against the ghoul. "The shock of losing my mother took a sharp turn of confusion and loneliness, as I struggled with not knowing why my life was this way," she said.
"I regret never telling my mother that she didn't really have a son, but that her son was a daughter deep in mind and soul caught up in the mess of being born in the wrong body."
In 1996, Ms Jones finally took the decision to come out publicly about her Gender Dyphoria. She approached a transgender Support Group in Brisbane which had been suggested to her by a coordinator of a government body support link through a phone call to Life Line's sexual help services; an experience which would unfortunately only add to her anxieties in identifying her complicated emotional, physical and personal issues.
"It was run by a group of self-centred cross dressers with negative attitudes and sexually perverted ways of thinking. I was just a normal girl dressed in a pair of jeans with a nice top, they were dressed in corsetry and pranced around attempting to touch me and get me involved in their activities."
Two years ago Ms Jones underwent full gender reassignment surgery by the renowned cosmetic and plastic surgeon specialising in sex reassignment surgery Dr Saran in Thailand.
"I cried for ages," she said.
"I was so happy, I couldn't believe it. I felt complete for the first time, that I now was how I was always supposed to be." Miss Jones now celebrates her identity and new-found confidence as a beautiful woman, trying to raise awareness and foster a greater culture of support and acceptance of transgender individuals.
With her customised Harley Davidson she is a regular fixture at bike and car shows.
She is a professional photographer and is the President and Founder of The Lady Harley Owners Australia social motorcycle club, where she says she has always found acceptance. On June 18 she will compete in the Miss Ink Australia 2016 competition.
"There are many things you have to leave behind when you choose to accept and project who you are to the world," she said.
"These are the things you lose; friends and family because they don't understand; careers and opportunities because you're different."