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'It's been a long journey,' says woman who had gender reassignment surgery in her 70s

Last Updated Nov 30, 2016 at 11:49 am EDT

CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan travelled to Thailand to cover the story of Danica Rain, an Ontario transgender woman who underwent gender reassignment surgery at a clinic in Bangkok. While there, Mulligan met Divvi De Vendre, a transgender woman in her 70s, who was also in the process of fully transitioning from male to female. This is her story.

Most of the women I’ve seen who are in Thailand for gender confirmation surgery are in their 20s and 30s. Then I meet Divvi.

She has a warm hearty laugh and eyes that sparkle with humour. But Divvi De Vendre had kept a secret from the world for almost 60 years.

She is a woman.

You see, Divvi was born a man. Until recently her name was Alan. Now in her 70s, she is in Bangkok for gender confirmation surgery to complete her transition from male to female. She says she knew she had to do this about a year-and-a-half ago when she had a moment of self-realization.

“I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘You’re a liar. You’re not honouring who you are,’” she says. “And I just went, ‘Whoa. OK, you need to do this.’ I’ve arrived at a time in my life I feel I’ve stopped lying and I’ve become who I am. It’s been a long journey to get here.”

Divvi says she felt trapped in the wrong body for most of her life.

“By the time I was 12, I knew I was the wrong sex, without a doubt,” she said.

She also recalls being met with resistance when taking an interest in certain activities.

“I was eight and wanted to go tap dancing with a friend of mine and my mom just lost it,” she recalls. “And I didn’t know why, I didn’t understand why. I had no idea.”

Despite struggling with her identity, Divvi calls her life adventurous.

She owned a music studio and has been married three times to three different women. She believes each marriage failed because her partners were expecting her to take on a traditional male role and she couldn’t. She has three children. The youngest is 15; the oldest, 49.

Surprisingly as she transitions, Divvi hasn’t faced any discrimination, just acceptance, even from past wives and girlfriends.

“Ex-lovers they’ve just gone, ‘Right, OK, now it makes sense.’ No one was surprised,” she says.

Divvi believes it’s easier for younger transgender people today and says when she was in her 20s, gender confirmation surgery was much riskier and shrouded in mystery.

“Transgender surgery wasn’t available until I was about 26, 27,” she says. “I met a couple girls in London who had it and it was dodgy. It was touch and go then.”

She now feels liberated after making the bold decision to undergo gender confirmation surgery in her 70s.

This is Divvi’s Facebook post just hours before her surgery on Nov. 8:

“I am in Bangkok at Dr. Kamol’s Hospital having been rigorously retested, x-rayed etc and declared fit for surgery and with one sleep to go this afternoon from which I shall emerge, re-birthed female & the woman that I have always believed I should have been born.”

Three weeks later she arrived back home in Australia and told me via Facebook she has an “incredible lightness of being.”

“I have arrived where my heart has been all of my life,” she wrote. “I feel at one with myself for the first time.”