Channel 4 follows seven transgender men and women as they come together to share their intimate and on-going experiences of changing gender in a new four-part series.
These seven bright, funny and articulate individuals, who are undertaking some of the most profound changes any human being can go through, give uniquely personal insights into what it's like to change gender in Britain in 2011.
"Being Trans ... It's more about a journey to find yourself than a journey to find a good surgeon."
Donna is immensely proud to be transgender, and doesn't care who knows it. As a boy she was deeply misunderstood, and like many trans people suffered depression that lead to her self-harming as a young teenager. But now, several years into her transition, she couldn't be more fulfilled.
"It makes me so happy to be able to wear make-up, to wear feminine clothes, to have breasts. I wouldn't change it for the world. Why would anyone want me to if I'm happy?"
Donna was prescribed female hormones two years ago, and they are irreversibly changing her body. Her hair and skin are softer and her breasts have grown. But there have been changes to her personality as well. Donna describes being more emotional, more in touch with her feelings and more able to cry. She has little interest in surgery at this point in her life.
Donna is a performer on the festival circuit, and her fire eating and breathing is something to behold. But it's Donna's confidence and humour that has been inspirational in the retreat. Her ability to shake off the prejudices of society and stick two fingers up at a world that's tried to deny her happiness has set a gold standard of what is possible for others to achieve.
Whether they are transitioning from male to female, female to male, or just trying to find a happy place in between, Donna has been there to normalise experiences, give comfort and always provide a laugh!
"I've never spoken to anyone who's transgender in real life. There's personal things that you can't really talk about to an ordinary person, because they wouldn't understand."
Drew is a sweet, sensitive, caring young woman, desperate to live what she calls a ‘normal life.' She wants to work, earn money, pay rent, and have a loving relationship - all the things that any vibrant attractive girl wants - but for Drew being transgendered is stopping her achieving her dreams.
Every time she goes out, or even shopping in her small hometown of Wakefield, Drew is stared at and frequently abused by strangers in the street. Things got so bad that she rarely bothered leaving the house.
"People are constantly sniggering, asking is that a boy or a girl? Every time I go out, it's just shit."
Drew came out as female when she was 18 and has been living full time as a woman ever since. Unlike many trans-individuals, her family are extremely supportive of her. In fact it was her mum who first came to her to ask if she wanted to live as a girl. But, despite the love of her family she still feels trapped and lonely.
Drew has repeatedly tried to get work, but being transgender has meant she has been refused employment practically everywhere she has applied. She does have a part-time job at a local gay bar, but knows full well that if she is to be successful, she has to get out and about into her community.
Drew came to the retreat hoping to build the confidence she needs to live a normal life.
"It's a really awkward time for me, and yet I wouldn't have it any other way, because I know that I've got to go through this to get to a place where my outside reflects my inside."
Fox has only recently begun his transition to becoming male. Although he's known he's been trans for many years, starting the process of changing gender was a profoundly difficult step to take.
"I had this thought that I might wait until my parents passed away before starting my transition. I couldn't imagine telling them that I wanted to change this much."
Of the men in the series Fox is the earliest in his transition. He has been taking the male hormone testosterone consistently for just six months, and is frustrated by the slow pace of change. While he accepts that he still has feminine features, being called "she" or "her" is hurtful. It serves as a reminder that the rest of the world does not yet view him as the person he is inside.
Fox is intending to have his female breasts removed, but in the meantime, he does all he can to give himself the appearance of a masculine chest. Each day he wears a specially designed vest - a binder - which flattens his breasts, disguising his feminine shape.
Fox works as an artist in Brighton, and his work is heavily influenced by his transition. Unlike many trans individuals, he has the support of his friends and family, and describes living in "a trans bubble." But coming to the retreat was a huge support for Fox. Forming friendships with other trans-men has given him hope that he is moving towards a day where the world accepts him as male. "Don't underestimate the power of hormones."
"People say I'm brave, but it's not courage. It's a belief in yourself that you're doing something you know you have to do."
Karen began living as a woman just three years ago. In Episode One she prepares for and undergoes life changing and irreversible gender reassignment surgery - her penis is surgically inverted to create the vagina she has always wanted.
Karen knew she was female from a very early age, but has lived her whole life trying to suppress the need to live as a woman. She first tried to transition when she was 26, but faced with extreme public prejudice, couldn't go through with it. Like many trans women, Karen sought out very male roles. She served as a policeman on the front lines of the miners' strike and the Tottenham riots, and worked as a lorry driver for over a decade.
"I was in relationships as a bloke, I got married, I did all the things that blokes are supposed to do. But it just didn't feel right."
Today, Karen is determined to make up for lost time and live her life to the full as a woman. As the oldest member of the group, she has been extremely supportive of all the younger trans people at the retreat, encouraging and re-assuring them in their decision making.
Karen also hopes to make contact with a daughter who she has not seen in over twenty years.
"No one has ever mistaken me for female, or been able to tell I'm transgender. I feel just like a regular guy."
Lewis was born female. He was just six years old when he said to his mum that he felt like a boy trapped in a girl's body. Since then, his journey to becoming a man has been difficult. As a 14-year-old girl he was misdiagnosed with anorexia, when in fact his discomfort with his body stemmed from the fact that he was going through puberty: he hated his growing breasts and feminine curves.
Whilst at college, Lewis lived as a lesbian but eventually came out as trans aged 19. He has been taking male hormones for two years, which has helped transform him physically. His voice has deepened and he has grown a beard that is the envy of his male friends. But he's worked hard in the gym to develop his physique - the female curves have gone and he looks like the heterosexual male he considers himself to be.
The trouble is that while he has no trouble "passing" in society as a man, Lewis still has female body parts and that makes everyday life and relationships hard. What he wants is surgery - both top surgery to remove his breasts, and lower surgery to create a penis.
The problem is that Lewis was recently turned down by his local Primary Care Trust for funding to have his female breasts removed; the work was considered to be cosmetic rather than a part of gender re-assignment treatment.
Now Lewis faces the proposition of having to raise the money himself - difficult to do as a part-time assistant at an art shop.
Lewis also hopes one day to have lower surgery, known as phalloplasty, to create a penis. But this is a major operation, and one he knew little about. Lewis arrived at the retreat hoping to learn more, and being visited by a transgender man who has had a phalloplasty, and was happy to share his experiences of the surgery, was a genuine highlight.
"I love being a man. I mean, what's not to like?"
Max was born female. Three years ago he began his physical transition to becoming male. Of the three men in the group he has been transitioning the longest, having begun taking the male hormone testosterone in April 2009. In January 2010, Max travelled to Bangkok, Thailand, to undergo a double mastectomy and male chest contouring.
Max is a determined and ambitious individual who sees no reason why being trans should stand in his way of being successful in modern society. He is extremely well-versed in trans and gender issues, and has a Bachelors degree in English Literature and a Post Graduate degree in Indigenous Studies and Constitutional Law.
Max is also a Reform Jew, living a religious and observant life. He attends synagogue regularly, wears a yamulke daily and hopes to enter Rabbinical School to fulfil his goal of becoming a Rabbi.
Max has few problems "passing" as male in everyday life, and has taken the decision to so publically acknowledge his trans status extremely seriously.
"Based on 2009 statistics, a trans person is murdered somewhere in the world every 72 hours. That's a reality to me and people like me. I experience a certain degree of fear most of the time."
However, for Max, the opportunity to speak openly and publically about the trans experience in Britain today was too important to miss. He is adamant that hostility against trans people is one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice in the UK, and wants to do everything in his power to change society's negative perceptions of trans people.
"There's so many things that I would change about my appearance. I'd like to get my nose fixed, my teeth fixed .... I feel different on the inside than I look on the outside, you know?"
When Sarah first arrived at the retreat, she had only been living full time as a woman for a matter of weeks - not even her parents knew she had made such a life-changing decision.
Sarah comes from a deeply religious background and has spent years building up the courage to finally live as a woman. Coming to the retreat was a chance to get help, and get help fast, and Sarah openly admitted that she had a lot to gain, and a lot to learn. But that didn't make arriving easy.
Sarah has not yet had any medical help to change gender. She has not started taking hormones and still has a male body. Each day she wears prosthetic breasts, a £30 wig, and clothes bought from charity shops, all to make her outside match her inside. But despite the struggle ahead, the future is bright.
Through the course of the series, Sarah builds up the courage to tell her mum about her transition, bringing to an end years of secrecy.
"She's seen me depressed, she's seen the scars, I want to tell her that it's over now. That part of me is gone. The world is full of colour again."