By Dan Coles
A former army sergeant who served in the forces for 30 years has revealed she is now living as a woman – after joining the army in the 80s in a bid to ‘hide’ who she really was.
Andrea Halliley, 51, from Durham, was a decorated army sergeant, having completed tours in Bosnia, Iraq and Northern Ireland.
But it was only once she retired from the forces in 2015 that she felt brave enough to reveal to her wife and three children who she really was – and that she had secretly always felt as though she was trapped in the wrong body.
And now, she has decided to share her story in a bid to help other transgender people who feel under pressure to ‘hide’ and encourage them to live the life they want to live.
Andrea, who was previously married to a woman and has three children, decided in the latter stages of her career that she was tired of hiding who she really was and subsequently began the process of changing into a woman.
She said: “I joined the army over 30 years ago but deep down I knew it was just me creating a costume to wear so that people would think I was a man’s man.
“I went along with what I felt I was supposed to do so I got married and had a family but I always knew that inside I was a completely different person.
“It was tough being in the forces because there was a lot of homophobia and it was very common to make jokes about gay men and women.
“I would just go along with the jokes though, constantly building an even bigger mental wall in front of myself so that nobody questioned whether or not I was transgender.
“When I came out of the army in 2015, I was still married and started to buy some women’s clothes online to try on secretly and was meeting people who felt the same just for support on how to deal with being in my situation.
“Eventually I came clean to my then wife, it was difficult for her to understand at first, but at least she knew now and we could move forward from there.”
Andrea joined The Royal Regiment Of Fusiliers in 1985 and finished her service with The Princess Of Wales’s Royal Regiment in 2015.
She served in a multitude of different countries including Norther Ireland, Balkans, the middle east, Kenya, Cyprus, Canada, USA, Norway, Slovakia, Poland and many more.
Whilst fighting in the first Gulf war, Andrea was part of 8 Platoon C Company 3RRF which was mistakenly fired at by US aircraft in the now famous friendly fire incident between the USA and UK, which killed nine UK troops.
Andrea said: “The British Army of the 80s and 90s was essentially an environment where bigotry was rife, as such in order to ‘fit in’ it was necessary to at least laugh along with counter LGBTQ+ comments.
“It was a war in my head for decades, wanting to be something I always felt I could never be, I was good at pretending and had pretended who I was very convincingly for a long time.
“After leaving the army and that battle, I got home and realised I had my own battle to face, and realised I wasn’t alone when attending a trans event and meeting a woman who I had known when she was male.
“I met my ex-wife in 1999, but I knew I was in the wrong body from the age of 6 and constantly had an inside conflict between my feelings.
“I joined up in order to try to ‘man-up’ and deny my true self, hence my joining the Infantry.”
After being out of the army for six months, she decided it was time to face up to who she was and explained to her family what she was going through.
Andrea said: “They were really supportive, it was hard for my ex-wife at the start obviously but together we worked through it.
“She even came to a trans event with me to understand more about why I was feeling how I did.
“I regret lying about who I was, and I can’t help but feel guilty for leading people on to believe I was something I was not.
“But I also don’t regret it, I love my children, and I wouldn’t be without them, my wife understands who I am and we are on really good terms.”
“After a year of trying to stay together we realised I couldn’t go on any longer living at the time what I felt was a false-life.
“I suppose everything I had done up to that point was all a cover, I love my children of course, but I have been married twice and spent 30 years in a very macho job, and it was all to help me hide from my true self.
“I have been living as a woman now for nearly three years and truly feel happy with who I am, it has been a huge change and a massive adjustment for everyone around me but it’s normal now, everyone knows who I am.
“I’m currently on a waiting list to go through gender reassignment surgery and feel like that will be the final piece of the a puzzle I have been trying to complete since I was a teenager.”
Andrea is now sharing her story to show people that no matter who you are, you can always find your truth and have the life you were born to have.
She said: “I was in every way a man’s man, I had a wife and children, I was a veteran in the army even fighting in the first gulf war.
“I have toured the world defending the country against any conflict that arose, but I am most proud of being victorious in my own battle.”