Trans activist Rebecca de Havilland praised for inspiring interview with Tommy Tiernan

LGBTQ+ and HIV activist Rebecca de Havilland discussed her life experiences as a trans woman in Ireland on the Tommy Tiernan show.

Trans activist, Rebecca De Havilland, was interviewed on the Tommy Tiernan show
Image: Instagram

Trans activist Rebecca Tallon de Havilland was interviewed on The Tommy Tiernan Show on Saturday, March 4, and was praised for her courage and being an inspiration to many. During the conversation, they covered a range of topics, including Rebecca’s childhood, transition and sobriety.

On his show, Tiernan interviews mystery guests without any preparation or knowledge of who he’s meeting until the discussion begins. On the latest episode, the mystery guest was Rebecca De Havilland, known for her trans and HIV activism and for being the first Irish trans person who changed the gender marker on her passport.

During the interview, de Havilland talked about being born into a body that didn’t feel like her own, describing it as “…probably your worst nightmare that you can’t wake up from.”

She described her experience in a boys’ boarding school in Dublin, and how she was confronted with her gender identity when she was 7 years old.


While transitioning and as she was trying to navigate relationships, she said she knew she was on the right track, but didn’t yet feel like herself.  She described undergoing gender-affirming surgery as feeling “completely Rebecca” for the first time.

She said she knew that things would get better, but the lowest part of her life was when she was homeless and turned to drugs and alcohol for comfort. She described the struggle of feeling like she had nowhere to belong and how she ended up being on life support in a hospital.

Thanks to the care she received, she is now approaching her 17th sobriety anniversary, and she accredits the will to be herself as the primary thing that kept her alive. Now, she feels fortunate to be working in the hospital where she was on life support 17 years ago.

Talking about her gender-affirming journey, she described the difficulties of having to meet with psychologists and undergo medical appointments before her surgeries. Initially, she was diagnosed with HIV and told that she was ineligible for surgery, but she pushed forward, sharing, “I had all my surgery operations done before there was even any HIV medication”.

She talked about ways that we can support each other. When discussing pronouns, she admitted, “I’m a trans woman and I still get it wrong, sometimes, if that helps anyone.”

During their discussion, Rebecca also talked about the places that brought her comfort and stability during her life, including her hair studio when she started hairdressing in the 1970s. Rebecca was the owner of Tallon Model Agency, the first trans TV presenter in Ireland, and the first person to be the Grand Marshall of both Dublin Pride 2022 and the Dublin Pride float of the St Patrick’s Day Parade 2022.

She described her career as being her safe place, saying that she wants to provide the same for other people as well. In 2016, she created Project Bootcamp, a training programme to empower trans people to gain employment, life skills, and encouragement to live authentically.

Rebecca also said she hopes that no one will feel targeted or unsafe in 2023, and on her Instagram page, she is appealing to the public to help make her dream a reality, saying, “I have a platform and I will continue to use it – I want to see change and safety for trans people and those living with HIV.”

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