Mark Rees – FtM Pioneer
Probably the last thing one might expect Mark Rees to be interested in is becoming an ordained member of the Church of England, but that was exactly what Mark intended to do, back in 1971. However, given his situation and the laws back then it was considered an impossible request because Mark was not an official member of the male community. Mark was born in 1942 as a female and there the story begins.
Born as Brenda, in sleepy Tunbridge Wells, Kent, to not-so-religious parents, she was baptized into the Church of England because it was the ‘done thing’ at the time. 1942 was right in the middle of the Second World War and luckily, Tunbridge Wells took few hits and remained a sleepy small town, allowing Brenda and her sister to grow up going to the local parish school, attend Sunday school and then head off to the C of E secondary at the age of 11.
That was about the time that young ladies were expected to grow out of any tomboy stages they have entered as kids and start to wear pretty frocks and look like young women. However, Brenda was having none of that nonsense. She remained staunch in her habit of wearing the winter uniform of a skirt, shirt and tie when all the girls were prancing about in summer dresses. Still, she could never get out of her mindset that something was horribly wrong with the way she had been born.
At the age of 17 Brenda was voluntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital owning to her sense of dress, tomboyish nature and a very ambiguous appearance, leading to some very cruel taunting from other students. This was, remember, during a time when there was still a massive distinction between the roles of men and women, along with the jobs they were expected to do. Quite naturally, Brenda resisted the typing pool, the knitting and the typical female work and when she volunteered to enter the hospital because largely because of this dysphoria.
Sadly, the doctors and the psychiatrists were little help and she was eventually sent on her way and told to ‘enjoy being a woman.’ Well, of course that didn’t cut the mustard, but Brenda was allowed to return to her studies and take extra exams. In 1963 she entered the Women’s Royal Naval Service and once basic training was completed she was dispatched to Culdrose in Cornwall, to the Air Station, serving as a transport driver. It was while serving there that Brenda’s sexuality was called into question because of her ‘mannish’ appearance. She also had a crush on one of her fellow female officers but did not class herself as a lesbian. After a mere two years of service, Brenda was discharged on medical grounds, after which she decided to study to become a doctor, burying herself in helping others to forget her own pain.
In 1969, everything changed with the flip of a coin. Whilst researching whether her own story was unique, Brenda discovered a report on Gender Identity by the International Symposium. Suddenly, after decades of turmoil and self-doubt, Brenda had an answer. She avidly followed up on this theory and wrote to the Albany Trust, who then told her about Doreen Cordell. Mrs. Cordell sent Brenda’s letter to John Randall, a psychiatrist who was working with a multitude of trans-sexual people at the time. John Randall made the declaration that Brenda wanted to hear; “I can help you live as a man”.
In 1971 Brenda began hormone therapy and with a couple of years she totally disappeared—to be replaced by a very ecstatic Mark Nicholas Alban Rees. In 1995 Mark took her ex employers to the European Court of Justice and if it had not been for that case, the UK government may not have stepped up with as many changes as they have done, owing to cases like Mark’s. In 1996 he published his entire story in ‘Dear Sir, or Madam” (Cassell, March 1996; ISBN: 0304333948).
Despite the passing of the Gender Recognition Act, Mark does have the ability to alter his legal identity to female. However, due to the fact that the bill was written after Mark turned 60, he would lose his pension if he were to alter his gender from female to male. Still he remains the model of quiet dignity and calm serenity. His demeanor is happy and he is no doubt pleased with the way he has conducted his life.