As a bodybuilding ladies’ man, there was no doubting Shannon Moore’s masculinity.
Nights out would be drink and drug-fuelled and it was not unusual for them to end in violence, with Shannon throwing the first punch to prove his macho prowess.
But it was all an act. Because as a young boy, he’d been convinced he would grow up to be a girl.
Now 44, with grandchildren, Shannon is Jessie-Renee and finally living life as a woman, having been born with gender dysphoria and experienced a lifetime of fear and paranoia – making several suicide attempts along the way.
A complete nervous breakdown two years ago proved to be the turning point and led Jessie-Renee to confront the truth and tell the world that she was transgender.
After almost two years, hormones have transformed the muscular body-builder into a slender, elegant woman who now holds her head high and walks with confidence.
I injected steroids because I thought the testosterone would cure me. And I didn’t care about anyone because, really, no one knew me. I thought if people knew I would not have a friend in the world.Jessie-Renee Moore
She says: ‘I come from a very traditional family. Both my brother and late father were very macho, masculine men. They were boxers.
‘I did BMX, motocross and skateboarding – to the extreme. Apparently that’s not uncommon for people in my position because you have no regard for life.
‘I didn’t know what it was, but from a very young age I knew something wasn’t right. I thought I was going to grow up into a girl. I was so confused. I didn’t like boys’ stuff. I wanted to play with my sister’s dolls.
‘I would skive off school to cross-dress and it affected my education. I’d sit by the window, looking out for my family to come home. Shaking with fear that I’d be caught.
‘I thought they’d think I was a freak – which is what I thought of myself from six years old.
‘The paranoia started out the size of a Malteser. By the time I was 40 it was the size of a mountain.‘
Jessie-Renee has been married twice and has two daughters, but sadly her relationship with the girls is fractured since coming out.
Her first wife was supportive when she told her. So much so they were going to move to Brighton together so Jessie-Renee could live openly as a woman.
But the relationship broke down before that could happen.
Jessie-Renee then spent years consumed with fear and paranoia that her ex-wife would reveal her secret to family and friends.
She says: ‘It was constantly on my mind, 24/7, for the next 20 years. I got a skinhead, I took drugs, drank heavily, got into fights. I wanted to make a point so people didn’t find out I was a freak.
‘I injected steroids because I thought the testosterone would cure me. And I didn’t care about anyone because, really, no-one knew me.
‘I thought if people knew, I would not have a friend in the world. I thought everyone would laugh at me. I told my mum when I was in my early 20s and she didn’t want to talk about it. But now she is my rock.’
Jessie-Renee, from Stubbington, has been so low over the years she has made several suicide attempts.
Two years ago she had a nervous breakdown. She was found wandering the M27 with no shoes on.
A lorry driver who narrowly avoided hitting her called police and she spent two weeks in hospital recovering. It was there everything changed when she poured her heart out to staff.
She says: ’The weight of the paranoia just all went.’
Jessie-Renee was refereed to a gender psychologist and started to transition. She also spent an entire weekend at a hotel in Brighton as a woman. She says: ‘It was confirmation for me. It felt amazing.’
On November 19, 2013 Jessie-Renee took a giant leap by revealing to the world her true identity in a Facebook post to her 400 friends.
‘I’d planned to kill myself in the December. I wrote everyone I knew a letter. But I got to my daughters’ and I started crying and thought “how can I do this?” So I told my brother – which was a really big deal – and once that was done I wrote a massive statement on Facebook.
‘I had been hiding for 40 years, thinking I was going to be seen as a freak.
‘When I sent it I thought I wasn’t going to have anyone left. But I would rather have died because I couldn’t live in that body any more.’
Within a few hours Jessie-Renee had received more than 150 messages of support. She says: ‘I was crying my eyes out. All these people have been around me all my life and they never knew. I wasn’t living, I was just existing. I was an outsider. I felt odd, I didn’t click with anyone. I’d been acting.’
But it’s not been plain sailing since then. Her job as signwriter means working on building sites every day, wearing a hard hat and hi-viz jacket.
Before she can have sexual reassignment surgery, she must have lived and worked as a female for two years.
She has endured sniggers, laughter and insults. But nothing will stop her being who she really is.
She says: ‘At first I would get to work an hour before I needed to and sit in my van and cry. I used to have stubble, but I had to work as a female. Now it’s different. The hormones have worked quite well and we have a laugh and bounce off each other.’
‘I’m not 100 per cent confident now, but I’m 99 per cent. I feel like the dust has settled. I feel like I finally fit in.’
And she is happy to educate the people at work if they ask questions.
A big turning point came recently at a party with a group of friends she has known for a long time.
She says: ‘I walked in and no-one raised an eyebrow, they just said: ‘All right Jess?’ and I sat down with the girls and had a good laugh. My transgender wasn’t even mentioned.
‘I suddenly realised “I’ve done it”. I don’t want to be treated any differently from anyone else.’
How Jessie-Renee broke her news on Facebook
I have something to share and I expect only half of you (if I’m lucky) will still have me added as a ‘friend’...
You see, I know you all but you don’t know me AT ALL. What I’m about to say to everyone who thinks they know me is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do...
I have GENDER DYSPHORIA, a medical condition 1% of population ARE BORN WITH. You don’t have a choice... I tried so much to suppress it, ignore it, deny it, but there is no cure it’s wiv u forever, and I tell u this, it is absolute hell being some1 you’re not in a body you hate. When I was 7/8yrs old I thought I would grow up into a girl.
Unfriend/insult or whatever you need to do, if u don’t that’s great but I’m under no illusion... just wanna b happy now !!!
Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.
Biological sex is assigned at birth, depending on the appearance of the genitals. Gender identity is the gender that a person identifies with or feels themselves to be.
For example, some people may have the anatomy of a man, but identify themselves as a woman. It was traditionally thought to be a psychiatric condition.
More recent research suggests the condition may be the result of the abnormal development of a baby while in the womb, possibly as a result of genetic or hormonal factors, which causes the brain to develop a gender identity that is different to the baby’s sexual organs.
For local support, e-mail the charity Chrysalis at email@example.com.