Weight watcher Jai De’ath felt so confident after shedding seven stones that he came out as transgender.
After being known as a woman for 22 years, the super slimmer, 23, from Murton, finally felt comfortable enough to come out to friends and family as Jai and has been living as a man ever since.
Jai, who never refers to his old name, says being a member of Weight Watchers in Seaham has helped him to deal with his identity struggle, which he first noticed when he was seven-years-old.
“I knew I was different,”Jai said. “But I didn’t know what it was and certainly didn’t have the terminology to describe it. I hadn’t met, and still haven’t, met anyone like me.
“For a number of years I was unhappy with myself and had been bullied. My dad died three years ago and it contributed to me comfort eating. I felt a depression. I guess you would call me a tomboy, I would wear men’s clothes and was always jealous of boys growing up, I just wasn’t sure why. I guess kids now have more knowledge of things like this.”
After dad Trevor’s death, Jai’s weight began to balloon, weighing 17st6lbs at his heaviest. He joined his first slimming group in March 2014 before moving back to his native North East and joining the Seaham’s Eastlea Community Centre group last April which helped him to drop to 10st10lbs, going from a dress size 20 and a men’s size XL, to a men’s size small.
Jai, who was born in Sunderland but lived on various army bases growing up due to his dad’s job, says shedding the stones helped him to gain his identity.
“I came out last November, that is when I thought ‘this is why I’m feeling the way I do, it’s because I’m transgender’,” he said. “I’d lost so much weight, about 50lbs by that point, and I started to realise I looked more womanly and I didn’t like it.
“Other people had started talking about being transgender, like Caitlyn Jenner, although her case is the other way round. Plus, there are more characters in film and TV that are trans and it helped me realise why I had kept questioning myself.”
Jai had his long hair cropped short and, though he had always worn men’s clothes, began to feel more at ease with identifying himself publicly as a man.
After telling him mum and family, he shared his story with his slimming consultant Sharon Lowes.
He said: “Having my hair cut off was a big thing for me. It was a scary thing to do, but it was then that I felt I was Jai. Sharon was one of the first people I told and has really helped.
“The people that matter to me and that I care about have been really supportive of my decision.”
The next step for Jai is waiting for his first appointment at a gender identity clinic in Newcastle. After that, he hopes to start the long journey to physically becoming a man.
He said: “You have to wait a long time as they want to make sure it’s right for you. But I’m not confused, I know this is what I want.”
Though he’s unrecognisable from his former self, Jai still has 7lbs to lose before achieving his goal weight.
His diet has changed from skipping breakfast and eating larger meals later in the day to eating a more balanced diet.
He said: “I would eat three tubs of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream a week and would never eat vegetables or salad before, but now I eat loads. I actually eat more than I did before, it’s just more of the right things. My attitude to food has changed and I don’t feel the need to comfort eat anymore.”
Jai says the combination of losing weight and setting on the path to becoming a man has made him more comfortable in his skin.
He said: “I obviously feel much fitter and more confident. It is still a struggle being transgender though. I’m ‘misgendered’ all the time and people call me by my old name, it’s a struggle every day. But I’d rather be like this than the way I was before.”
•Weight Watchers meets at Eastlea Community Centre, Seaham, on Tuesdays at 7pm. Contact Sharon on Tel. 07950309692
Jai’s food diary
•Breakfast - skip breakfast but have a fried bacon and egg sandwich on white bread drowned in ketchup
•Lunch - ham and cheese sandwiches as lunch and snacks.
•Tea - frozen chips and frozen chicken.
•Snacks - Bags of sharing crisps, ice cream and chocolate bars.
•Breakfast - natural yoghurt and fruit or Shredded Wheat.
•Lunch - chicken salad or lean meat with salad.
•Tea - butternut squash made into chips or wedges with chicken breast or chicken sausages.
•Snacks - fruit or Weight Watchers bar or crisps.