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Kellie Maloney: 'My 60-year secret'

Kellie Maloney: 'My 60-year secret'

Retired boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly Frank, talks about her dreams, diaries and secret dress-ups, and why it took her 60 years to come out.

Las Vegas, November 1999. Lennox Lewis has just beaten Evander Holyfield to become Britain's first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in more than 100 years.

After the ringside celebrations among 6,000 delirious British fans, Lewis' promoter Frank Maloney retires to his hotel room, where the darkness engulfs him.

He should be feeling on top of the world. He's just masterminded the greatest success story of British boxing in a century. It should be the crowning glory of his career.

But Frank has a secret. A secret so huge he has never been able to whisper a word of it to anyone for fear of losing everything.

It will be another 15 years before Frank reveals his lifelong secret to the world: that he is a woman trapped in a man's body.

By the time of the announcement in August 2014, Frank had been living as Kellie for a year and was preparing to have gender reassignment surgery.

One of the main reasons Kellie didn't come out earlier is because of her father, Tom, a former railway worker, who had been so proud of all his son had achieved after leaving school aged 15.

"I had his respect," she says. "He put me on a pedestal. I could never hurt him." Looking back, Kellie now believes her father's death from cancer aged 87 may have been a tipping point.

'Living with the burden any longer would have killed me'

Kellie Maloney

"I couldn't tell him, even on his death bed," she says. But his passing in 2009 meant Kellie no longer had to live up to her father's expectations. "I couldn't disappoint him anymore," she says.

Kellie had planned to complete her transformation in private, but was forced into going public after a national newspaper threatened to out her.

Buoyed by the public's positive reaction, Kellie has embraced her new-found status as Britain's most famous trans person to help raise awareness about transgender issues.

She followed a string of newspaper and TV interviews with a three-week appearance on Channel 5's Celebrity Big Brother.

'I always knew'

At 61, and after nearly 60 years of corrosive silence, she says: "Living with the burden any longer would have killed me. I always knew … from the age of three or four. I didn't know what it was, but I didn't associate with what I saw in the mirror."

But growing up in 1950s Peckham, south London, with working class Irish Catholic parents, being different was not an option.

"I just wanted to be a normal boy," she says. "In those days, you'd get called names just for having a speech impediment or having ginger hair."

So Kellie tried "extra hard to be accepted as one of the boys", dating pretty girls and getting into sports such as athletics, football and boxing.

But as hard as she tried to be a Jack the lad and fit in, deep down she still wanted to be a girl, to dress and act like them.

"I have a female brain," she says. "I knew I was different from the minute I could compare myself to other children. I wasn't in the right body. I was jealous of girls.

"If I saw a girl and she looked really nice, I'd wonder how I would look if I was wearing that. Then I'd try to distract myself and stop thinking about it."

The only place Kellie could be herself was in her dreams. "In every dream I've ever had I'm a girl," she says. "At first I used to think I was dreaming of someone else."

The childhood dreams never went away, and became more and more vivid as Kellie got older. "I was living as the real me in my dreams," she says.

She has always kept a diary, even at the height of her power and influence in the boxing world, where the suppressed Kellie could come out for some air.

"Everything you need to know about Kellie is on those pages," she says. "The diary helped me get things off my chest. It was like therapy."

Secret dress-ups

With nobody to share her secret with, Kellie found strength from reading about other people's experiences in transgender publications and websites.

She remembers reading the stories of Christine Jorgensen and April Ashley, who were among the first transsexuals to have gender reassignment surgery in the 1950s. "It just didn't seem a realistic possibility to me," she says.

To satisfy her desire to be Kellie, if only for a while, she attended private dressing up sessions in shops off high streets and down back roads in Dublin and Manchester.

"You could get a makeover for about £300 and stay there for three to four hours," she says. "For a few hours I was able to be the real me."

'Boxing was a great distraction'

Then it was back to the macho world of boxing, where Kellie had built a reputation as a hard-nosed Cockney geezer famous for wearing Union Flag suits in the ring.

"Boxing was a great way to distract myself from my thoughts," she says. "I was totally absorbed. I buried myself in my work, 24/7."

On fight nights, Kellie would sometimes leave her team in the locker room and enter the thronging arena to allow herself one little indulgence.

"I would try to imagine what it would be like to be one of those glamorous women in the audience," she says. "But I'd head back to the locker room and focus on the boxing."

Away from the boxing ring, Kellie tried to conform to what society expected. She says she genuinely found love, married twice, and has three daughters.

'I'm a woman, and my transition won't be complete until my body matches my mind'

Kellie Maloney

"I thought being in love and marrying would beat what was going on inside of my head, but the inner fight in me made it harder to keep going as the years went by," she says.

Marriage break-up

Kellie's secret was slowly tearing her apart. Struggling with depression, she began drinking heavily and tried to shut herself away from the world and her family.

"My life was spiralling out of control," she says. "I was very unhappy. My temper was getting worse."

She turned to counselling and says the help she received over the phone and in face-to-face sessions over the last 12 years "has helped me enormously to come to terms with myself".

She recalls having an angry exchange with one counsellor. "All I wanted was for him to tell me that I wasn't transgender, but he said I needed to accept myself if I want to live a normal life."

Kellie is still in touch with some of the organisations that helped her, including transgender support group TG Pals, and is keen to support their work.

Her father's death, the suicide of boxer Darren Sutherland, and her own health – she had a heart attack watching a boxing match – all weighed heavily on her decision to reveal all to her wife in 2009.

"Tracey was the first person I had told outside counsellors," she says. "She swore she would never tell anyone. She would've taken my secret to the grave to protect our girls."

The couple tried in vain to rekindle their relationship. Following the breakdown of their marriage, Kellie tried to take her own life on Christmas Day in 2012 – her second attempt in recent years.

"It got to a point where I just couldn't cope any longer," she says. "I couldn't go on, and I had to start living the life of the person I should've been born as."

She revealed all to the rest of her family before the story went public. After the shock and tears, they have mostly come out in support of her, although her daughters are unlikely to stop calling her "Dad".

"I can't say enough about my 81-year-old mother," she says. "She told me that she had always known I was different from my brothers and that at last she could see why.

"I think it stems from her that the family has accepted it, because she made the point of telling them. Their support has given me the confidence to go out in the world and be myself."

Gender surgery and identity

Over the past two years, Kellie has received hormone therapy, hair removal electrolysis, voice coaching and specialist counselling.

The final phase of her transformation will involve "the realignment of my male genitalia to become female genitalia", as well as having breast implants and facial surgery – all done privately.

She says her transition was about gender identity and not about sexual orientation.

Why the name Kellie? "It's always been Kellie," she says. "It's short and sweet. I'm dyslexic and Kellie is easy to pronounce and spell."

"Until I have the operation I feel like half a person," she says. "I'm a woman and my transition won't be complete until my body matches my mind," she says.

"I don't want to be labelled," she says. "I'm not a transsexual woman. I'm a human being. All that is being done is to correct a mistake at birth."

And where's Frank? "Frank is still a part of me, but the roles have been reversed," she says. "Kellie used to be a small part of Frank, but now Frank is a small part of Kellie."

Cannabis: the facts

Cannabis: the facts

Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK, although its use in recent years has fallen.

The proportion of 11-15 year olds in England who had used cannabis in the last year fell from 13.3% in 2003 to 7% in 2013. The proportion of 16-59 year olds using cannabis in the last year has fallen from 10.6% in 2003-04 to 6.6% in 2013-14.

How cannabis makes you feel

The effects of cannabis vary from person to person:

  • some people may feel chilled out, relaxed and happy
  • others get the giggles or become more talkative
  • hunger pangs are common – this is sometimes known as "getting the munchies"
  • you may become more aware of your senses – colours may look more intense and music may sound better
  • it’s common to feel as though time is slowing down

Cannabis can have other effects too:

  • it makes some people feel faint and/or sick – this is sometimes known as a "whitey"
  • it can make you feel sleepy and lethargic
  • some people find it affects their memory, making it harder to remember things
  • it makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience  panic attacks and hallucinations. These effects are particularly common with stronger forms of cannabis, such as skunk and sinsemilla

If you use cannabis regularly it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education or work. Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and to concentrate.

Can you get addicted to cannabis?

In the past cannabis wasn’t thought to be addictive. However, research has shown that it can be addictive, particularly if you have been using it regularly for quite a while. About 10% of regular cannabis users are thought to become dependent.

As with other addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin, you can develop a tolerance to it. This means you have to have more and more to get the same effects. If you stop taking it, you can experience withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.

If you regularly smoke cannabis with tobacco, you’re likely to get addicted to nicotine and may develop tobacco-related illnesses. If you cut down or give up, you will experience withdrawal from nicotine as well as cannabis.

Risks of smoking tobacco

Smoking cannabis with tobacco can raise your risk of tobacco-related illnesses, including:

See tips to stopping smoking.

Risks associated with cannabis

Recent research has helped us better understand the health risks from using cannabis. We know that:

  • Cannabis affects your ability to drive. This is one of the reasons why drug driving, like drink driving, is illegal. One French study found that drivers who had been using cannabis were more than twice as likely to cause a fatal car crash.
  • If you smoke it, cannabis can be harmful to your lungs. Like tobacco, it contains cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) that increase your risk of lung cancer. It can also make  asthma worse, and cause wheezing in people without asthma. If you mix cannabis with tobacco and smoke it, the risks to your lungs are higher.
  • Cannabis can harm your mental health. Regular use is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you experience hallucinations (when you see things that aren’t really there) and delusions (when you believe things that aren’t really true). Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if you start using cannabis in your teens and if you have a family history of mental illness. Cannabis use has also been shown to increase the risk of a relapse in people who have schizophrenia, and could make existing symptoms worse.
  • Cannabis may affect your fertility. Research done in animals suggests that cannabis can disrupt sperm production in males and ovulation in females.
  • If you are pregnant, cannabis may harm your unborn baby. Research suggests that using cannabis during pregnancy could affect your baby's brain development. Regularly smoking cannabis with tobacco is associated with an increased risk of your baby being born small or premature.

Does my age affect my risks?

The risks linked to using cannabis do seem to be higher for people who use it regularly from an early age, including the risk of developing a mental illness.

It’s not clear why the risks are higher for people who start using cannabis when young. It may be linked to the fact that, during the teenage years, the brain is still forming its connections and cannabis interferes with this process.

Does cannabis have medicinal benefits?

Herbal cannabis contains many different compounds, called cannabinoids, which have different effects. One of these cannabinoids – tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short – is the active ingredient of a prescribed drug called Sativex. Currently this is only licensed in the UK as a treatment to relieve the pain of muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis.

Further research is under way to test the effectiveness of cannabis-based drugs for a range of other conditions including the eye disease glaucoma, appetite loss in people with HIV or AIDS, epilepsy in children and pain associated with cancer. We won’t know whether or not these treatments are effective until trials have concluded.

See more on clinical trials involving cannabis

Does cannabis lead to other drugs?

While most people who use harder drugs like heroin have used cannabis, only a small proportion of people who use cannabis go on to use hard drugs. However, buying cannabis brings you into contact with the illegal drugs trade, making it more likely that you will be exposed to other drugs.

Where can I get more information about cannabis?

You’ll find more information about cannabis in the Frank website’s A-Z of drugs.

If you need support with giving up cannabis, you’ll find sources of help in Drugs: where to get help.

'Running helps manage my high blood pressure'

'Running helps manage my high blood pressure'

Andrew Watson took up running after a routine medical check-up revealed he had high blood pressure.

Overweight and with a family history of hypertension, the 49-year-old knew he needed to be more active.

With a mainly deskbound job and a busy family life, the father-of-three from Devon was leading a largely sedentary lifestyle. 

However, the unexpected blood pressure readings were a wake-up call for Andrew and prompted him to take up running.

Since graduating from Couch to 5K and progressing on to parkrun (free, weekly 5km timed runs) he has lost two stone and says running has given him a “new lease of life”.  

With his father being a seasoned parkrunner and his three teenage sons getting a taste for the timed 5km runs, Andrew says running is turning into a family affair.

Why did you start Couch to 5K?

I have a history of raised blood pressure, which is being managed by my GP surgery. I went for a routine check-up just before Easter [2014] and my reading was up again. I was advised to lose a bit of weight, which was a wake-up call. I'd started cycling and watching my portion sizes, but felt I needed to do more. 

How active were you before starting Couch to 5K?

I wasn't a complete couch potato and I'd recently started cycling to work, but my job is mainly desk-based and I found it hard to incorporate exercise into my lifestyle. I knew I needed to increase my physical activity, but I never seemed to get round to it.

How has Couch to 5K changed you?

I feel fitter now than I have done for years, and regular exercise is now part of my lifestyle. The exercise and better diet also help me manage my blood pressure. I've lost over two stone since I started Couch to 5K in April. I also feel better in myself, less stressed and in a better mood. I think it’s down to the sense of achievement I get from running.

What do you like about the Couch to 5K plan?

I'm the sort of person who needs a bit of structure, so I found the podcasts and the commentary and encouragement really helpful. Knowing I had to fit three runs in each week really helped me get into a routine.

How did you hear about parkrun?

I first heard about parkrun’s timed 5km runs from my dad, who is a keen runner and a proud wearer of his 50 parkruns t-shirt! A parkrun was recently set up in Parke Estate, near Bovey Tracey, about a mile or so from my home.

Did you start parkrun after completing Couch to 5K?

I didn't feel confident tackling a 5km run from scratch, as I had tried running in the past and never enjoyed it. I tended to go too fast too soon, and ended up feeling defeated. Parkrun gave me a goal to aim for while doing Couch to 5K. Once I reached Week 7 of the programme, and was running continuously for 20 minutes, I felt ready to give parkrun a go.

How often do you do parkrun?

I've now completed 15 parkruns since starting in June, and I try to go as much as possible. According to other runners, Parke is quite a hard course compared to other parkruns, with plenty of ups and downs.

What do you like about parkrun?

Lots of things! Anyone can give it a go, no matter what level of fitness they are. It's free and convenient for me, being close to home, and as it starts at 9am you still have the rest of the day to do other things. I have a busy job and family life too, so fitting in exercise has been a challenge in the past.

Have your running times improved?

Yes. With my first parkrun, I was hoping just to get round, but secretly hoping it would be in less than 40 minutes. I was thrilled to achieve 34:25 for my first attempt. The following week I shaved about two-and-a-half minutes off that, and my personal best (PB) now stands at 28:50.

Do you do parkrun alone?

My son has run with me a couple of times, but he usually finds friends from school on the start line to run with. I tend to run on my own, but will see quite a few familiar faces, including work mates and neighbours, along the course. My other two sons are showing an interest in parkrun, so it's turning into a family affair.

Have you made new friends doing parkrun?

Yes, parkrun is quite sociable and friendly. The course volunteers give you encouragement on the way round, and a few people head up to the cafe afterwards for a coffee and a chat. I've started volunteering on some days, which is another way of getting involved in the whole social aspect.

How does parkrun keep you motivated?

Couch to 5K got me into the habit of running three times a week, so doing a parkrun on Saturdays and a couple of mid-week runs help to me maintain that routine. The fact that parkrun is a timed run is also great motivation. It drives you to improve your times. Since achieving my initial goal of getting a PB under 30 minutes, I am now considering joining a local running club, and might enter a 10k event in 2015. 

Help if you're feeling under the weather

Help if you're feeling under the weather

Minor illnesses like sore throats , coughs  and colds are more common during the winter months. 

A minor health problem can sometimes get worse quickly if you’re over 60. If you or someone you care for is feeling under the weather it’s best to get early advice from your pharmacist.

Why early advice is the best advice

It's best to get advice on your illness as soon as you can, because, being older, if a winter ailment becomes serious you're more likely to need treatment in hospital.

It’s not always easy to ask for help. You may feel that you’re wasting your pharmacist’s time if you go to see them with a minor illness, like a cold or a sore throat. But it's minor health problems like these that your pharmacist is there to help with.

Getting help early means you're likely to recover more quickly and be able to get your life back to normal.  

How your pharmacist can help

Pharmacists are a highly trained and trusted source of health advice for minor health problems. Your local pharmacist can:

  • give you expert advice to help with symptoms of coughs, wheeziness, colds or sore throats
  • see you without an appointment, and often when your GP practice is closed
  • advise you on whether you need to see your GP
  • speak to you privately in a consultation area where other people can’t hear about your health problems
  • help you manage a long-term condition (if you have one), such as diabetes or COPD

Find your  nearest pharmacy or learn more about  pharmacies and the services they offer

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