Transgender activist shows her spirit with Icon nomination

Transgender Jan Irvine from Bonnyrigg, who is up for an Icon Award.
Transgender Jan Irvine from Bonnyrigg, who is up for an Icon Award.

A Bonnyrigg woman has been nominated for a LGBTI prize a year after an award-winning BBC documentary on her gender re-assigment.

Jan Irvine (63) is up for the spirit award at this Sunday’s Icon Awards in Glasgow, which launched last year to celebrate those who make an important contribution to LGBTI rights in Scotland.

And Jan could make it a hat-trick of prizes thanks to her involvement with Pride Edinburgh, which is also up for an award this year.

She said: “Last year we won a media award for the documentary and then out of the blue I got a mystery phone call to say I had been nominated for the spirit award this year.

“This came from nowhere, I wasn’t expecting it. It’s good to be nominated. I’m looking forward to the night.

“It’s massive, because one day after the documentary went out I got asked for my autograph in the co-op in Bonnyrigg. It had a huge response.

“I do a lot of work for free in the community. I have a big tie-in with Edinburgh College.

“I also support a lot of LGBT people in the community all over and go up to Dundee. I was also a director of Mid and East Lothian Women’s Aid but I had to resign because of ill health. I’m kept busy.

“I just get up and take people on a journey telling them my story. When I was 60 I had an ‘Audience with Jan Irvine’ at the Churchill Theatre.

“I was at Hawthornden Primary last week. It’s quite a powerful thing.

“When I give these talks I don’t need notes, I just speak from the heart.”

Jan reflected on her change from a man to a woman.

She said: “I knew at five I was different. I first asked for help when I was 15.

“I’m 63 now so you can understand that back then it was a no-no. It was looked on as a psychiatric case.

“I got married but after three years I told my wife.

“It took me until the age of 48 before I felt that I couldn’t fight what I had fought all my life any longer and I took the decision to do something about it.

“I changed from Ian to Jan on Christmas Day 2001. And on February 28, 2004, I had my gender re-assigment operation.

“I have had an incredible journey and met so many nice people. I have met the First Minister a few times now.

“I’m proud of what I have done. At the end of the day I’m just Jan Irvine who lives in Bonnyrigg. I just want to enjoy life. There are still people out there that will never be happy with what I have done.

“It doesn’t matter who or what we are, we all have something to offer society. At times people can be too judgemental and opinionated.”