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13 November 2014

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You are in: Leicester > People > Your Stories > Miranda's Story

Miranda Ponsonby

Miranda Ponsonby

Miranda's Story

Imagine growing up feeling you weren't truly yourself, that you were in the wrong body. This is the predicament one Leicestershire woman faced before being spurred into action after 30 years of marriage.

For more than half a century Rhodri Ponsonby played the roles expected of him by his social peers: public school boy, sportsman, soldier and farmer, but something was never quite right.

Twenty years ago Rhodri underwent drastic surgery to transform his outward appearance to match his inward gender - and become Miranda.

Miranda Ponsonby

Miranda as Rhodri

Listen: Miranda's Story

BBC Leicester's Tony Wadsworth spoke to Miranda at length about her experiences as a man and woman…

From a young age Miranda felt there was something odd about life as Rhodri:

"I physically felt the whole time that I was female, but it didn't unduly unhinge me.

"I thought it was a handicap I had to put up with, and then the war came quite soon and all the trials and tribulations of the war were really much more important than my predicament."

At the age of six Miranda was packed off to boarding school, which in many ways was quite traumatic:

"I think I felt, and I think the other boys felt that I was a female in their own funny way."

However it wasn't all bad news; a discovered competence at cricket saw Miranda rise to be a respected school captain, "I thought I did something remarkable because of what I was."

As a young man Miranda was accepted onto a course in Oxford to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor, however a shortage of army officers meant that national service changed her plans:

"I had an army career which I was extremely happy in, and hadn't it been for farming I would have stayed in the army, and wish I had now really in many ways."

"It was the pressure of knowing what I was that eventually got the better of me. The male menopause if very strong which people don't realise!"

Miranda Ponsonby

Wasted Time?

Miranda now feels the best days of her life were wasted at the family farm she took on after the service, but doesn't is grateful for many of the personal changes to her life during that period.

As Rhodri, she married and had children, "It was expected of me for a start. I needed a son and heir.

"I don't say there anything wrong in the fact I did that – I fell in love prior to that… There must be an element of both sexes in one I suppose."

However nearly thirty years later Miranda believes the strain became too much:

"I don't see it that the marriage went wrong, it was me that went wrong. It certainly wasn't my wife's fault in any way.

"I suppose it was the pressure of knowing what I was that eventually got the better of me. The male menopause if very strong which people don't realise!"

Miranda Ponsonby

Miranda Ponsonby

Life Changing

Miranda's decision to go ahead with the sex change operation came into action much more rapidly than is usual for transsexuals.

The physical operation was "horrific" and the fall-out was far from easy with family, friends and strangers:

"I didn't anticipate that quite to the extent that it happened, but I knew I had to stay where I was because I was farming at the time, no way I could've left the farm.

"I couldn't go off and start a new life where people didn't know. What people do is they laugh at you in the first years, and going on a ward they'd all giggle and laugh at you, but when you went and talked to them they never did after."

Miranda eventually handed over the Leicestershire farm to her eldest son, gaining a new freedom which led her into a new profession of nursing.

She describes the road to getting qualified and employed as a "terrific battle" that often saw her using various tactics to avoid revealing her birth gender, due to the prejudices of others.

For the last 20 years Miranda has happily worked at Kettering Hospital, and feels she has a special connection with the coronary patients in her care:

"I wouldn't have taken up nursing whatsoever, if I hadn't of found immediately that I've got a gift for it in more my relationship with the patients.

"My gift is for cheering them up and providing a happy atmosphere."

"The thing I probably regret more than anything else, one particular incident, is my younger son got married and I wasn't invited to the wedding."

Miranda Ponsonby

No Regrets?

Despite all the time that has passed she still has a sense that he has let her family down, especially as she now has very little contact with her children:

"The thing I probably regret more than anything else, one particular incident, is my younger son got married and I wasn't invited to the wedding."

"And everybody said at the wedding apparently, so I heard afterwards by somebody, that I'd let the regiment down, that sort of feeling."

However despite this, now aged 76 Miranda looks back over her colourful life still largely happy with the path her life has taken, and feels she did all she could for her sons:

"The good thing is they grew up in a happy family, that's the important thing. And a farm is a good place to bring up children so one would have hope they'd be well adjusted people."

Miranda has written a book detailing her experiences, from young aristocratic boy, to strong female nurse:

"The book was a cathartic experience, I needed to write it, and it's a way to light ahead for other people in my circumstances.

"My life has been recently in helping other people, it's been given over to helping others, this book is part of that."

last updated: 21/07/2009 at 11:35
created: 21/07/2009

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