Woman who changed life with gender reassignment to launch book at Islington Waterstones

Julie Clarke

Julie Clarke - Credit: Archant

A woman who lived for 50 years as a man is to launch a book about her life at Waterstones in Islington next week.

Julie Clarke worked as a firefighter and was married for nearly 20 years, but says she knew from the age of seven that she was different from the rest.

She realised her dream by having gender reassignment surgery in 2006 and her book, Becoming Julie, tells the story of a difficult journey with a happy ending.

“For me, writing the book was very cathartic,” said Ms Clarke, 58, “although I had to revisit a lot of very dark memories it helped me to put some demons to bed.

“At primary school in the 60s nobody wanted to talk about things like that, teachers turned against me.

“That’s when people started to notice I wasn’t doing what other little boys were doing – I didn’t want to play football with the boys, I’d rather be skipping with the girls.”

Ms Clarke grew up in Scotland and now lives on the Isle of Coll working on ferries to and from the mainland, a job she held previously as a man.

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The story has received lots of attention north of Hadrian’s Wall and has even attracted praise from author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series Alexander McCall Smith, who called it “a remarkable account of a personal struggle which is written with great dignity”.

Ms Clarke and her publisher chose Islington for the book’s London launch, partly because of the borough’s large LGBT community and its record for diversity.

However, she hopes her story will have a much wider appeal.

“I think it will definitely appeal to the LGBT community,” she said, “but the book isn’t just aimed at them, it will have a wider appeal as it’s a very human story – that’s something I really want to get across.

“It’s not a dark story. There are dark moments but in the end it’s a success story.

“I’m very happy now, I have a good job, I travel widely, my life is absolutely amazing now that I’m Julie Clarke I’m a local celebrity on the island.”

Ms Clarke will be signing books from 6.30 to 8pm at the store on Islington Green next Thursday.