SOMETIMES it’s hard to be a woman, especially when you used to be a man.
Sandra MacDougall - an ex-soldier formerly known as Ian - took four years and 10,000 of NHS cash becoming a woman.
But Sandra has revealed to Scotland on Sunday that she wishes she was still male.
The 49-year-old says her experiment with womanhood has failed, largely as a result of the blinkered attitudes of the Ayrshire community where she lives.
The former member of the Scots Guards says she has suffered verbal and physical abuse since her sex swap operation almost four years ago, and wishes it could be reversed.
But MacDougall now finds herself trapped in a woman’s body after she consulted doctors and was told the operation could never be reversed.
MacDougall, who has not had a relationship since going under the knife and expects to be celibate for the rest of her life, has now decided to make the best of her hard-won gender. She said: "Since I had the operation my life has been made a misery by people taunting me whenever I go out.
"Recently when I was walking down the road a man swore at me and told me to stay away from the children."
She also said she was sexually assaulted by three men by the side of a road in broad daylight, and had been disowned by her three brothers and two sisters.
MacDougall added: "I would like to rejoin the army as a man again - they certainly wouldn’t take me the way I am now.
"People have been so cruel. I can’t go anywhere now without being shouted and laughed at. Sometimes they don’t say anything at all, just walk past me shaking their heads slowly."
MacDougall, who served with the army in Northern Ireland and is martial arts trained, admits wanting to ‘sling a punch’ at her tormentors.
"But I have to remember that I’m a woman and that it would not be a very lady-like thing to do," she said.
She warned anyone thinking of having the operation to make sure they knew what they were letting themselves in for.
She said: "Be more than 100% sure because once you’ve had the operation, that’s it."
As Ian MacDougall she married twice in an attempt to prove herself a man, but could not hide her true feelings and both marriages failed.
MacDougall completed three tours of duty in Northern Ireland and was the victim of a bomb attack in Belfast in 1980.
She said: "We were sent to control a riot and someone threw a bomb at us. I remember the noise as it flew through the air and the tremendous wall of heat as it went off. It was terrifying. I still get flashbacks."
MacDougall left the army in 1983 after 10 years’ service and continued to live as a man, working as a self-employed decorator. In 1994 she took the first step towards her sex change by assuming the name Sandra and living as a woman.
Four years later, after extensive counselling with doctors at the Gender Identity Clinic in London, she underwent a five-hour operation at Charing Cross Hospital.
MacDougall was put on a high dose of hormones which have given her a 40B bust and almost hairless body.
However, the former soldier, from Saltcoats, has been dogged by physical complications which will require further surgery to correct.
She said: "At the time I was delighted and was looking forward to becoming a woman. But there have been so many problems that now I don’t feel it’s been worth it all.
"I got so low about myself and the way I was being treated by people that I asked a surgeon if he could change me back.
"I knew in my heart that they wouldn’t be able to do it but I thought it would be worth asking," she said. "I was so desperate for so many years to become a woman and now I am I wonder what it’s all been for.
"Society is simply not ready to accept people like me. I don’t even get treated like scum. I get treated worse than scum."
MacDougall said she had not had sex as a woman and did not plan to in the future.
"It’s not really something I’m interested in to be honest. I’ve had quite a few complications with the operation that I don’t want to go into but I’m not that keen to embark upon any relationship.
"I’m just trying to come to terms with my life and a love life is simply not on my agenda. I will not be getting married and I will never have another relationship with anyone."
She added: "There are parts of being a woman which I love. I really enjoy picking out a lovely dress to wear and co-ordinating it with shoes and a top and then putting on makeup.
"I have more than 80 dresses, bags of makeup and a whole cupboard full of shoes. I think I look pretty good. I don’t think you could tell that I was once a man." MacDougall said she had always wanted children and that urge had never changed.
"Obviously it would be impossible for that to happen but I have a huge collection of dolls - about 30 of them - all of whom I love dearly.
"They all have names and I often take them off the shelf and play with them."
CROSSING THE GENDER GAP
THE complex procedure to turn a man into a woman includes surgical reconstruction and hormone therapy.
Sex change patients also receive counselling, electrolysis and speech therapy.
Surgery, for male to female transsexuals, may include:
vaginoplasty (construction of a vagina)
penectomy (removal of penis)
orchidectomy (removal of testes)
clitoroplasty (construction of a clitoris)
cosmetic surgery such as hair transplants or facial remodelling
thyroid chondroplasty (shaving of the Adam’s apple)
and crico-thyroid approximation and anterior commisure advancement (for raising the pitch of the voice).
Chartered psychologist Cynthia McVey, who is also a psychology lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, said Sandra’s feelings were understandable.
"If she is experiencing hassle from ignorant people then it’s possible she feels in retrospect that living as a man was easier.
"Sandra would have been hoping that the sex change operation would give her some sort of psychological relief.
She added: "She would have had to live as a woman for two years before having the operation. I imagine that during that time she was building up a lot of hope that this would make her life so much better.
"But perhaps if her standard of living has got worse as a result then this could have had something to do with her change of heart."