Michelle was brought up as Michael (Mike) with 2 siblings, and after leaving school Mike joined the Merchant Navy as a navigation cadet in 1972. He went on to become 3rd and 2nd officer, with a brief stint as chief officer, serving on mainly dry bulk carriers of around 26,000 tons deadweight (cargo capacity). After a fall in 1984 he was repatriated back to the UK from Singapore, and in February 1984 was diagnosed as intersex (half male, half female). He was offered a sex change but received no counselling nor support, so he decided to remain a male – a decision he very much regrets. Because of his diagnosis, he was medically retired from the Merchant Navy in 1984 but did manage to sail as Captain on a UK millionaires private yacht in 1986.
Then in August 1986, Mike set up Marine Chart Services (MCS) to offer support to ships with the maintenance of their navigation charts & publications. It wasn’t long before this service really took off, and MCS saw itself moving into 600 sq ft offices and employing several staff. The business continued to grow as did the number of staff and the size of the offices. By 2006 the business was looking after around 400 ships all over the world, and the offices were now 4,300 sq. ft.
Although Mike was seemingly content in his life, with his wife of many years, he still felt he would be happier as a female. His wife was very understanding and supportive, and in 2006 Mike was seen by his local Gender Identity Clinic and his transition to becoming female commenced. He adopted the name Michelle and wore a-sexual clothing but didn’t wear skirts and dresses as he knew he would lose many clients by doing this.
He suffered a heart attack in 2007 and again in 2009, so when it came to the appointment to discuss his/her genital reconstruction (referred to as bottom surgery) she was refused the go-ahead. She was told that she wouldn’t survive the surgery due to her recent heart attacks, and Michelle went back to living as Mike, but still taking female hormones.
Following the breakdown of his marriage at the end of 2015, Mike became Michelle again and quickly changed his name legally to Michelle Jane Clarke. Living and dressing full-time as Michelle, made her realise that this was the correct pathway, and she felt happier and more confident in herself. She was again referred to the Gender Clinic where her progress through transition was monitored and she was put forward for bottom surgery with a consultant in Brighton. The surgery was planned for December 2020, but unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic delayed this a good 12 months, and she is (as of February 2021) still waiting. She also intends to have voice feminizing surgery to soften her masculine voice
During 2019, Michelle and a friend started giving talks to various groups of mental health nurses within Northamptonshire, and these were so well received that they often received a standing ovation at the end of the talk. Then, in March 2020, the UK was put into lockdown because of the Coronavirus, and Michelle decided to expand the talks into something better. The finished article was a 3.5-hour presentation dealing with all aspects of transition, both male to female & female to male, as well as covering non-binary and other forms of gender incongruence. Included in the course is language & terminology, pronouns, gender clinics, key stages in each pathway, a video of my transition, equality in the workplace, important legislation & so much more.
She then set about getting the course approved as a CPD Accredited course, which was granted in September 2020. A pilot course was delivered at around this time to a number of volunteer participants and it was a huge success.
Since then, Michelle has been canvassing businesses and organisations around the UK and has now taken on contracts with several of these organisations.
As a former professional seafarer, she decided to wave the trans flag in the direction of the international shipping community and has published several articles for inclusion in an international shipping magazine, with a view to delivering her course worldwide.
Also at the end of 2020, she began to write her autobiography ‘From Ship to Shore & A Whole Lot More’ which is now available on Amazon in paperback format, priced at £15.00.
At 66 years old (in 2021) Michelle is a driving force for transgender acceptance and inclusion and will go the extra mile to bring about the changes that are needed in today’s society & industry.
2021 was a busy time for National Gender Training, as Michelle continued to explore more avenues. Additional courses were developed covering Professional Behaviour in The Workplace which deals with the problems of bullying and harassment, and also Visual Impairment Awareness. Both courses are now CPD accredited and were developed in conjunction with Paul Fitzgerald (Professional Behaviour) and Natalie Murphy with John Kelly for the Visual Impairment course.