Imagine looking in the mirror and thinking "that's not me". That's what it was like for Holly Conroy for the first 37 years of her life.
"I'm a transgender woman - I have been my whole life, even though it took me so long to come out," she said.
Holly tried to tell everyone who she was when she was 27, but unfortunately, adverse reactions from her loved ones forced her back into the closet.
"There were times through my late teens and early 20s that I wanted to tell someone," she said.
"There were a few occasions where I had actually gone up to my parents when I was 18 and then changed the subject right at the last minute and didn't bring it up.
"It was the fear of the unknown, and the times back then didn't really look kindly on transgender people, so I found it difficult to come out and just continued to do the best I could with what I had."
Ten years after her initial attempt to be true to who she was, Holly found herself spiralling out of control and contemplating suicide.
"I wasn't planning financially, because I honestly didn't think I'd see 40 or anything else," she said. "I thought 'what have I got to lose?'."
On April 11, 2016, Holly made the courageous decision to post publicly on social media that she was transitioning from male to female.
"Once I had seen people's reactions, it was a whole weight lifted off my shoulders," she said. "A lot of the guys I did martial arts with were the first to comment on it, and I remember one comment was 'we were brothers in the ring, and now we're brother and sister'.
"Everything changed, and my life has been completely different ever since."
Now out and proud as her true self, Holly began researching the steps she needed to take to ensure what she saw in the mirror matched what she had known all along. Initially at 27, when she first contemplated transitioning, she was shuffled from doctor to doctor in Wagga as none would help her.
So the second time around, Holly decided not to bother with regional practitioners and headed straight for a medical practice in Canberra.
"There's a doctor there, Nick Hamilton, I went and saw him, and he was amazing," she said. "He told me everything I needed to do, everything I needed to know."
Before Holly could take hormones, she needed to see a psychiatrist four times to get a letter of approval.
"I went back to the doctor, gave him the approval letter, and he took a blood test just to work out what hormone levels I needed," she said.
"Then he prescribed me my hormones. It was that simple.
"Once I started hormones, and that started making little changes to my body, I had full body laser for a while as well, and then once I did that, then it was time to start planning my surgeries."
Over the coming years, Holly would spend more than $60,000 on surgeries, a cost which she covered by draining her superannuation as there are no Medicare rebates.
"A big thing that people misunderstand is, they think we choose to transition," she said. "I didn't choose to transition, I chose not to kill myself, and I chose to be who I am."
In three years, Holly had sex reassignment surgery, her jawline reduced, a chin reduction, a lower eye-lift, a three-quarter facelift, and breast and nipple enhancements. She is still considering getting a nose job.
The hard work didn't stop there. Holly had to change her driver's licence and passport.
"I went down to the RMS, told them that I needed to change my gender marker from male to female, and they changed it on the spot," she said.
"For my passport, I had to have certificates from doctors and a certificate from my psychologist.
"Changing the name of my birth certificate, it was just filling out a form, but changing the gender marker on my birth certificate, was an expensive surgery."
Holly said the legislation needed to change to ensure transgender people did not need to have the surgery to change their gender marker, as it in a costly venture.
The hormones, the surgery, the paperwork, and telling friends and family is not where the challenges stopped.
Holly also had to tell her employer and colleagues.
"My working life was still Dave, and my social life was Holly," she said.
"I came back from Canberra to start my hormones, and it was Friday, and the boss, the big boss of our branch, came out, and he said 'can I see you in my office?'.
"I started panicking so, I've gone into the office, and he said, 'I hear you're transitioning'."
Holly said at this stage, she had only told one person at work about her decision, so when her boss brought her in she feared the worst.
"He said 'well, I want you to know, I don't have a problem with it. I've already spoken with the head office, and they don't have a problem. Anytime you want to come to work as your true self - you feel free.'," Holly said.
"I just looked up, and I said, 'she'll see you Monday'."
So, how did she pick her name? At 27, Holly called her parents to see what name she would have gone by if she had been born a girl. They told her Rebecca, and she decided that it was going to be it.
"One of the reasons I went back into the closet was because Mom and Dad accepted me, but they tried to talk me out of it as well," Holly said.
"Anyway, when I finally came back out again, I go back to the whole name thing, and I think 'no, you know what? F--- Rebecca'. I've always just loved the name Holly, and all the Hollys I've ever met have just all been little darlings, so that was it. I was Holly Conroy."
If she could share any advice with young people scared to come out of the closet, it would be "stay true to yourself".
"For me, I didn't truly find happiness until I came out," Holly said.
"And to think, what I have done in three years of being happy, with my transition? I put on a transgender inclusion soccer round completely dedicated to transgender players, and I organised Wagga's first Mardi Gras."
Mardi Gras will be coming back to Wagga on March 14, 2020. "We're back at the Memorial Gardens, and this year I'm planning on opening up more of the gardens, and I'm going to make that an alcohol-free family zone," she said.
"We base everything around family values and to have young families accepting it, that means these kids are growing up accepting it."
Holly will also be organising music to play through speakers along the main street in response to feedback from the inaugural event. Float registrations open on September 1.
Holly's story will be told in the film Trans Mission which will be shown on SBS in August.
- If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.