Living with a lie was something Callum was used to from a young age as he knew he was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.
He tells Aasma Day about his anguish and confusion and why he feels he will keep battling the need to self-harm until the day he has his sex change surgery.
“I WAS always more into Barbies than Action Men.” Smiling ruefully, Callum remembers throwing a tantrum at the age of eight in a clothes shop about it not being fair that boys couldn’t wear dresses.
Callum, now 19, who lives at the Emmaus community in Preston which supports formerly homeless people, recalls: “I can remember standing in this shop and screaming: ‘I want to wear a dress!’
“My mum and dad – or should I say the people who I believed were my mum and dad – were very supportive after I explained I desperately wanted to dress as a girl and they went out and bought me all these girly clothes.
“I was living in a small quiet town in Scotland at the time and I would happily go out wearing girls’ clothes and no one batted an eyelid.
“If I had been living somewhere like Glasgow, there is no way I would ever have been able to go out, even at the age of eight, wearing girls’ clothes as a boy.
“I remember going out wearing a horrible bright pink frilly skirt. Looking back now, I think: ‘What was I thinking wearing that?’
“But at the time, I absolutely loved it and was in my element and everything felt right in my world.”
At the age of 10, Callum’s life was suddenly thrown into turmoil after his parents were both killed in a car crash.
Callum was finding it difficult enough to come to terms with the tragedy when he then discovered the people he had been calling “mum and dad” weren’t actually his parents, but his aunt and uncle.
Recalling the bewildered hurt he felt at the realisation, Callum explains: “I had always thought they were my parents and had loved my life with them. We lived in a quiet and secluded area and I felt I could just be me. I only found out they weren’t my real mum and dad after they died and I felt angry, upset and as if my whole life had been a lie.
“Social Services came round to tell me that the people I had been living with weren’t actually my real parents but were my aunt and uncle.
“I later discovered that I had four brothers and sisters and my parents had a lot of debt, so could not afford to keep me, so had given me away to my aunt and uncle to bring up.
“I had never even met my real parents, but after my aunt and uncle died, I was suddenly told that my real parents lived in Chorley, in Lancashire, and that I would be sent to live with them.
“The first time I met my real parents did not go well. My dad was drunk, which didn’t go down well, and my mum was perfectly pleasant, but did not really know what to say to me.”
For the first year Callum lived with his new family, he did not really talk to anyone, but hid himself away.
He hid his feelings about wanting to be a girl from his parents and siblings and also hid his true feelings away at school.
Bottling his true emotions, coupled with bullying both at school and at home, led to Callum beginning to self-harm from the age of 10, and he is still battling the issue.
He explains: “At the time, I had long hair all the way down to the back of my legs and I was quite overweight.
“I was bullied at school for being different and I was bullied at home for being the black sheep of the family.
“I was always getting the ‘you were adopted’ dig thrown at me at home.
“I felt anger and sadness that the whole of my life had been a lie. I began self-harming and would cut my wrists open. Every time I got bullied, I would go home and self harm.
“It made me feel relaxed and took all the anger away.”
Things became worse for Callum when he was about 15 and his dad started getting violent when he was drunk.
Callum and his dad would fight and, as a result one of them would end up in hospital with injuries, and Callum endured many broken ribs.
At the age of 16, Callum started chatting to a girl the same age as him on a social media site and the pair met up and clicked.
However, just months later, the girl told Callum he was going to be a father, which came as a massive shock to him.
He remembers: “I got the text from her telling me she was pregnant when I was at school in the middle of a lesson.
“I ended up being kicked out of the lesson and sent to see the headteacher because I was swearing so much.But when I told the head why I had been swearing, he understood and he told my parents for me as I was too scared to tell them myself.
“Once I got over the shock that I was going to be a father, I stepped up and stopped drinking so much and packed in smoking weed.
“When my daughter was born, I remember holding her and I had a feeling of overwhelming happiness.
“But soon afterwards, her mother told me she was seeing someone else and binned me off.
“Then she ran away and went back to live with her dad and I have not seen my daughter since.”
Callum was so full of love for his daughter, he was willing to bury his feelings of wanting to become a woman and had been prepared to live as a man.
But after his daughter’s mother took her away, he decided to join the army.
Callum says: “I thought that if I could not see my daughter, I would fight for my country and protect her in the only way I knew by going to war.”
Callum joined the Private Military Corps with the British Army based at Catterick and, on his 18th birthday, he was shipped off to Helmund Province.
However, he left the army after he was injured with shrapnel through the back of his leg.
Callum returned to living with his parents again and decided to open up to his mum and confess his feelings about being a transexual.
Callum remembers: “My mum’s exact words to me were: ‘You are dead to me. Get out of my life.’
“That’s how I ended up sleeping on the streets of Chorley.
“I spent a month on the streets sleeping wherever I could find. I had nothing, just the clothes on my back.
“I would sleep in Astley Park most of the time and would hide in the woods or any other secluded areas.
“I had a friend who gave me food every day and he let me go to his home for a shower. But I could not stay there as he had a financée who did not like me.”
Callum was told about Emmaus in Preston, the charity for the homeless that has its own community, and he has been living at Emmaus for the last three months.
Callum says: “When I first came to Emmaus, I closed up about being a transexual and it took me about a month to even leave my room, apart from at mealtimes.
“But when I did pluck up the courage to tell people, I found they were very supportive and everyone looks out for each other.”
Callum is currently having counselling to prepare him for his sex change and is just about to start hormone therapy.
In about 18 months time, he is hoping to have his surgery and plans to be called Lily after his sex change.
Callum explains: “I am absolutely terrified at the thought of the surgery, but I am determined to become a woman.
“I just always knew I wanted to be a girl instead of a boy.
“I was always fascinated by dresses instead of boys’ clothes and I was into Barbies rather than Action Men.
“Everyone thought I was gay from a very young age.
“I always knew deep down that I wanted to be a woman, but when you are that young, you do not really understand what you are feeling.
“You just have this weird feeling that nothing is right and you feel depressed.”
Callum is on a high dose of anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs and he is a regular self-harmer who has had a number of suicide attempts.
He reveals: “Once, I severed eight arteries and another time, I got the knife right down to the bone.
“I have been into hospital 37 times just for suicide attempts. For broken bones, bumps and scrapes, I am topping 200 hospital visits.”
Callum firmly believes that, once he has had his sex change, he will be a lot happier and he says being male is the reason behind his desire to self-harm.
He explains: “Every piece of flesh I take away is less maleness on me. I know being trapped in the wrong gender is the reason behind my self-harming.
“I have not self-harmed for three weeks now, but I never know what will happen tomorrow.
“Being a man when you feel you are meant to be a woman is soul destoying. I look at all these women’s clothes that I want to wear but I know I can’t because I don’t have the right type of figure for them.
“I have been attacked for going out and wearing women’s clothes.
“Only a couple of months ago, I was in Preston city centre during the day wearing women’s clothes, when a group of about eight men started shouting homophobic abuse at me before dragging me to an alleyway and beating the living daylights out of me.
“I was attacked for looking different.
“Being in Emmaus is very good for me and I think I will be here for the foreseeable future. It is the best place for me.
“I am just looking forward to having my surgery and then I feel my life can start again as Lily. I want to be a woman before I am 21.
“Once I am a woman, I am planning to fight through the courts to see my daughter. That is my ultimate dream.”
l Callum’s name has been changed to protect his identity.