Builder stuns workmates. . . by becoming a woman
A TOUGH digger driver on building sites has shocked workmates by becoming a woman.
Until four years ago Samantha Bowler, aged 47, lived her life as man, a hard working construction worker and father-of-three with a black belt in karate.
But after a lifetime struggling with her gender identity she took the decision to start living as a woman.
Samantha still operates a digger for a living but now turns up to work as a women with long brunette hair and make-up.
When she's not on a building site Samantha advises the Welsh Government, South Wales Police and a number of other public authorities on transgender issues.
Samantha's profile as a professional diversity equality trainer means she could no longer keep her past a secret from her workmates.
She said: "I was afraid I'd get a lot of abuse, but the lads on the site have been great.
"They were a bit shocked and left me alone the first day. There was only one remark made which was not malicious, just banter which I could handle."
"After speaking with some of the men about my medical condition my workmates all became very relaxed and easy about it within a couple of days.
"I feel very comfortable in the site canteen — everyone has been very respectful."
Samantha knew from the age of five that she was different from the other boys in school.
Growing up she preferred to play with girls and their dolls rather than join in with the boys playing football.
She would secretly dress in her mum's clothes, borrow her make-up and style her hair in the bathroom mirror.
But because she was confused and afraid to talk about her feelings she developed a macho persona.
She said: "I became a loner, isolated and insecure — I found the best way to cope was to suppress my feelings by being a man in a man's world.
"I worked as a computer engineer, then on building sites, I got married and became a father.
"I was divorced when I was 24 but soon married again and had another child.
"I took up karate and gained a black belt — I did weightlifting, I was a family man who loved to be at home.
"I was married for 11 years, I loved my wife but deep down I hated my body. I longed to be someone else, the person I am now."
After a second divorce she lived alone and wore women's clothes and make-up when no one was around.
She later had another relationship and fathered a third son with a new woman, but because depression was affecting her this relationship was breaking down. Her then partner encouraged her to get the help which she so urgently needed.
Samantha was diagnosed with gender dysphoria — a condition where a person feels there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.
She changed her male name by Deed Poll and began living as Samantha.
And her consultancy work is taking up so much of her time Samantha, of Pontypridd, hopes to finally quit her life in the cab of a digger on building sites across South Wales.
She said: "I have been working in construction to pay the bills — no one paid any attention to the fact I am a woman driving a digger.
"But now everyone knows I was born male and I'm glad to have finally come out to everyone.
"I am proud of who I am and I'm not going to pretend to be anyone other than me anymore.
"I consider myself unique and very fortunate."
Samantha is now single and has shared contact with her former partner which means she has regular contact with her young son.