A Wearside model who fought back from the bullies to be crowned Miss Transgender North now faces her next challenge – becoming a mum.
Winning the inaugural pageant was a milestone moment for Fay Louise Purdham, 28, whose formative years were scarred by her peers who labelled her gay.
But Fay, born Kevin Lee McCamley, wasn’t gay, she was born in the wrong gender.
Now she’s launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the costs of finding a surrogate mother to help her achieve her goal of becoming a parent.
“Even before I knew I wanted to become a woman, I wanted to be a mother,” said Fay who grew up in Fatfield, Washington.
Prior to her sex-change, Fay had her sperm frozen and now she is hoping a woman will come forward to carry her future child.
I feel like I’ve become a kind, humble woman, which is a better female role than a diva. You can make more of a difference when you’re not shouting.Fay Louise
She said: “I have transitioned to my chosen gender, but it’s a huge task and cost to do this, so I’ve set up a Go Fund Me page up to help me on my journey to become a mother and have my dreams come true.
“It’s cost £60,000 in surgery to become a woman (half paid by the NHS and half paid by Fay), and it’s another £100,000 to pay for a surrogate to provide me with eggs and carry the child,” explained Fay who will raise the child as the mother, though biologically she would be the father.
With her glossy tresses, statuesque height and zest for life, Fay’s a striking woman.
But it’s been a long journey, including years of bullying, painful operations and taking hormones, to get to this point.
At the weekend, she came third in the first Miss Transgender UK finals after winning the regional final three weeks ago, a crowning moment to mark her struggle to live in her chosen identity.
Changing her name at 19 – and removing her Adam’s apple at 21
Fay changed her name by deed poll at 19 and had her first surgery at 21, to remove her Adam’s apple, after realising at 16 that she was transgender and discussing it with her GP.
“I was tortured growing up because I was feminine,” she said. “I was told by so many people that I was gay, I felt that it was imposed upon me. But I wasn’t, I was transgender.”
Fay, whose journey has been filmed for a BBC documentary, said: “I feel like recently I’ve really emerged from the shell I had to create, my armour against the world. My only way of dealing with what was going on was to back away from people. But I’ve done a lot of soul searching.
“I feel like I’ve become a kind, humble woman, which is a better female role than a diva. You can make more of a difference when you’re not shouting.”
Bruce Jenner’s recent transition to Caitlyn has seen the transgender community propelled into the spotlight more than ever before.
Fay said: “I wish Caitlyn had supported the transgender community before she was brave enough to publicly come out. She could have used her profile as Bruce to support the cause. She looks great, but not everyone has the money that she has to make that transition. She’s only just transitioned, but people have been doing it for years.”
TV series ‘milestone’ for transgender community
New BBC comedy Boy Meets Girl, which is shot in Newcastle, also shines a light on transgender issues.
“They’ve done a great job, I’d love to be in the show,” said Fay. “I think the next milestone is for a transgender woman to play a woman on TV, not a transgender role. You have women playing transgender characters, so why not the other way round?”
Fay, who lives with partner Chris in Middlesbrough, says although she’s come far since her school years, where she suffered at the hands of bullies, she still has to fight for acceptance.
“Sometimes it’s harder when you look more like a girl, because you have to explain yourself to people instead of them guessing for themselves. When I went to Miss Transgender people were saying ‘you can’t be a contestant, you’re not transgender.’
“I think people need to be careful with the use of the word transgender. I didn’t go through all this to become transgender, I did it to become a woman. I want to be known as a beautiful woman, not a beautiful transgender woman.
“I think the gay community isolated itself, whereas I want everyone to come together as one community, as humans. When I go to bars I don’t go to gay bars, and I certainly don’t think there should be transgender bars. I just go to a bar because I like the drinks. You can say something about who you are without walking down the street with a big sign.”
Fay is already a performance artist fire-breather, who’s well known on the Ru Paul Drag Race scene, and now she’s hoping to embark on a modelling and TV presenting career.
She’s teamed up with Sunderland hairdresser Neville Ramsay who’s helping to bring her to a wider audience.
“I’ve been doing Fay’s hair for years. She is such an amazing, positive person to represent the transgender community,” he said.
Neville, who has styled the tresses of A-listers including Sting and supermodel Jodie Kidd, provides Fay with real hair wigs for her shows and has been so impressed with her he’s asked her to model for his latest photoshoot to promote Milkshake hair products.
She’s become a regular visitor to A List salon in Durham Road where Neville fits her with his wigs, a service he also provides to alopecia and cancer sufferers.
Speaking about the Milkshake shoot, he said: “I’m an ambassador for the brand so the pictures will be used in all the top hair magazines across Europe, it’s a great platform for Fay as a model. She has great things ahead of her.”
•To donate to Fay’s Go Fund Me page visit www.gofundme.com/faylouisemum2be