THE reaction Mary Murdoch gets from walking down her street is very different to how she was greeted in Japan.
Born Malcolm Murdoch, the 68-year-old says she recently became the first transsexual geisha on a visit to Kyoto.
Mary, of Brownspring Drive, New Eltham, explained: “My ambition was to dress up as a geisha and at first they were reluctant.
“But in the end I convinced them. I was the first person to actually do this. They were very welcoming and put aside the normal rules for foreign tourists.
“Since then the Japanese government has a policy which says if there’s a female name on the passport then you may dress up as a geisha.”
Mary started having therapy at the Charing Cross Hospital in London four years ago.
Under the hospital's rules, she had to change her name and swap trousers for skirts, to make sure she would be comfortable turning her life inside-out.
She said: “The situation in the 60s was dreadful - it was hardly understood. People used to be given electro-shock therapy.
“Things have moved on a considerable amount since then.”
Her new look would certainly have raised eyebrows at the Ministry of Defence where she used to work.
Mary said: “You wanted to dress as a girl but you couldn’t and that made life very awkward so you had to do it in secret.
“It’s only recently people have started to understand transsexual people. They used to mix them up with a type of perversion.
“We now accept that it’s a biological thing.”
But things have not changed completely. Recently she was insulted by a group of youths in the street and later that day had her window smashed.
She said: “Surprisingly for four years there’s been no problem. I think new people have moved in to the area and this is making a difference to us all.”
Mary is now on an NHS waiting list for an operation which will see her separated from her manhood forever.
Mary explains: “It’s a pretty big step to change your sex. But I don’t have any doubts.
“I’m very happy, in fact much happier as a girl.”