Lauren Harries' Fight For Transgender Acceptance

Lauren Harries was known as James during her childhood and appeared on many television shows. Here she explains, in her own words, what it was like to transition from male to female in her 20s:

"Being born in the wrong body is like being trapped in a burning building, you get out or die.

"I was suicidal and couldn't wait the six years until the NHS deemed me eligible for gender reassignment operation.

"I raised the £12,000 and had the operation when I was 22.

"My surgeon told me that some of his patients had tried to cut their testicles off because they were so desperate.

"After my operation I felt euphoric, even after being asked by Judy Finnegan on This Morning 'if it a was publicity stunt'.

"To raise part of the money I sold my story to Max Clifford.

"From then on I was often verbally abused by passersby, being called 'tranny' or 'freak'. People would stop their cars and shout at me, and drive off when I tried to answer, as cowards do.

"We would also have bricks thrown through our windows, some had notes with diabolical messages attached.

"Seeking anonymity I travelled Europe.

"I met a wonderful man called Luciano and fell in love. One night whilst sitting on the Via Venetto listening to live opera Luciano told me he loved me: I was ecstatic.

"An inebriated Brit approached our table and asked me: 'Aren't you that antiques kid? Aren't you a man?'

"This kind of thing had happened a lot in the past, but I remember thinking then, 'please go away'.

"It was beyond my Italian Catholic boyfriend's comprehension - after I explained, he walked away.

"I then escaped to Tibet to rekindle my spirituality and remained there for a month.

"At home I survived through spirituality and the love of my family. My extended family denounced me.

"Oscar Wilde and many others suffered because of their love of the same sex.

"Leo Abse was a one-off great Welsh MP who fought and succeeded in decriminalising same-sex relationships.

"As a result now gay people are accepted. I believe it will take many many more years for people, especially heterosexual men to accept female transgenders.

"I was shocked when the open-minded Russell Brand denied having a fling with me during the time we worked together. His mother was quoted as saying: 'Oh Russell you didn't have sex with that antiques boy did you?'

"I have learned that it would take a strong man with "balls" to be seen in a relationship with a transgender woman. I haven't met one yet and I'm not looking.

"Unfortunately we are programmed to be in twos. I have been celibate for many years now and I am a one.

"The three weeks I spent on Celebrity Big Brother really enlightened people to who I am. They realised I was not the freak the press had depicted.

"Now fans approach me with love and for that I feel blessed."

:: On Friday Sky News' Social Affairs and Education Editor Afua Hirsch will report on how attitudes towards transgender people have changed in the UK.