FOR her first 39 years transsexual Gina Ravens ‘hid away from the world’ in the body of Graham Dennis Day.

She endured a ‘horrific’ childhood in Essex and struggled further after moving to Oxford in the early 1990s.

Ms Ravens, 56, said: “I knew I was different to all the boys in my class and that I didn’t have anything in common with them, but there was enormous pressure to conform.

“I started developing a need to cross-dress when I was fairly young because I just wanted to be allowed to act as an individual and not just conform to the stereotype I was expected to.

“Then I started to develop breasts at the age of 13 and used to hunch my shoulders over because I didn’t want people to see them.”

Marriage at the age of 25 did little to remedy her inner conflict, leaving Ms Ravens ‘suicidally depressed’.

It lasted seven years and produced four children, who she has not seen since 1985.

“Recently I found out...” her voice turns to a hush, “... that my daughter had a baby son, a year ago, Noah, and that I am a grandmother.

“All I can do is hope that one day they will come and find me.”

The Wood Farm resident said divorce landed her in hospital with a stress related calcium dysfunction but helped her accept her desire to live as a woman.

She said she felt safer and more accepted in Oxford.

The county has a higher number of transsexuals compared to the rest of the UK.

“Of course I have faced some prejudice here,” she said of her move to the city, where she trained at the Oxford College for Further Education to be a psychotherapist.

“Mostly from men, when they learn about my past.

“A lot of men are not that secure in their sexuality and I guess feel threatened by transsexuals.”

She said: “In the early ’90s I started dressing as a woman and it was wonderful.

“I gave all my old clothes to a charity shop and was able to create my own style. I felt at home in my own skin for the first time ever.

“I believe Oxford’s diversity means you have more chance of going through the transition and retaining your profession. We have transsexual GPs, lecturers, all sorts of people.”

A sex change operation on the NHS followed in 1996 after a course of hormone drugs.

She said: “A nurse once told me that transsexuals are a joy to look after because they eagerly go into hospital sad and leave ecstatic.

“I was out of hospital after a week and flying high.”

Since then she has thrown herself into community life and was recently appointed to a scrutiny panel which oversees Oxford Citizens’ Housing Association.

She said: “I am a resident and wanted to represent my fellow residents’ views.

“The day I was interviewed for the job, I revealed I was a transsexual.

“But the panel didn’t bat an eyelid and I think that shows that I am now accepted for who I am and what I can do.”

And she said: “People who know me, don’t know me as Gina the transsexual but just as Gina, a woman who likes to live life to the full and takes whatever it is thrown at her with a smile.

“I just want to get on with life and maybe spread a little happiness too.”