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New life Brave transgender farmer Erica insists it's business as usual as community welcomes change

One of them said 'good man yourself' and next thing 'sorry good woman yourself'! But, bit by bit they are getting around to it"

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Erica now wants to embrace her new identity

Erica now wants to embrace her new identity

Erica now wants to embrace her new identity

A farmer who wore a flowery skirt, blonde wig and pink wellies to a local mart after attending it for decades dressed in traditional male clothing, says her community now accepts her as transgender.

Brave Erica Coates (65) made the decision to go to Macroom mart in Co Cork in July dressed as a woman for the first time, having come to terms with her identity.

"I was dressed in a skirt that day," recalls Erica. "I felt totally at ease, which is the way it should be.

"On July 19, I changed. I'm Erica Coates, I used to be Eric John Coates. But I decided to go with Erica. I was always happy with the name, so put an 'a' on to it and that was it.

"They take me as a normal person, which is what I am. From the staff to the farmers, nothing but courtesy along the way."

Erica was one of four children raised on a 65 acre beef and tillage farm at Kildinan, Co Cork.

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Erica is carrying on with life as usual now she’s presenting as a woman

Erica is carrying on with life as usual now she’s presenting as a woman

Erica is carrying on with life as usual now she’s presenting as a woman

"Erica was trying to get out for years and when she got out, then that's what I should have been," she tells RTÉ's Ear To The Ground.

"It was a hard job to make the first jump, but when I made it, that was it then."

Erica recalls first experimenting with women's make-up when she went into a Debenhams store in Cork in July 2019 and began talking to an assistant at a Lancome counter.

"I was interested in getting a bit of makeup and a girl asked me could she help me. I said I was interested in getting a bit of a make-up," she recalls.

"I just said to her I was interested in getting a bit of mascara. She said to me 'a lot of men are doing it now'. She was so nice and so easy, it just came out of me. I said I was transgender.

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Erica as a youth on the farm

Erica as a youth on the farm

Erica as a youth on the farm

"It was just like the gates of the jail opening, I was free then. It was a total release. Erica was inside me trying to get out for years and years, but I just couldn't do it.

"You just couldn't be yourself. Even at times it was a fog, you'd be depressed, you couldn't be yourself. For years I didn't understand what I was."

Erica believes her parents would have accepted her if she had told them years ago.

"At the time I just didn't understand it," she points out. "I would have loved to have my hair long and earrings and dress like a girl. I couldn't do it. I wanted to but couldn't do it. I couldn't understand why. I never dreamt that you could have been born partly male or partly female, or whatever way it was - you were either one or the other and that was it.

"If my parents could have seen this when I was a teenager, what a release it would have been for me to go ahead with it. We could have had a happy, good relationship then."

She could never really confide in anyone.

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Erica Coates shares her journey on Ear to the Ground

Erica Coates shares her journey on Ear to the Ground

Erica Coates shares her journey on Ear to the Ground

"I never said it to anybody, just couldn't," she admits. "I wouldn't know how to approach it, even. For years I didn't know what transgendered was or meant . LGBT, I didn't know what the T was, even though I was one of them - but I didn't know what it was.

"It was very difficult, but just struggle on, work away the best you could and try to forget it. Get away from what I was."

She then began making the initial steps to transition.

"A lot of the neighbours, I rang them and told them my 'scandal'," she said. "I said 'there's no scandal at all'. One of them said he suspected for years. He said you are the talk of the place for a week and then you're forgotten. Everybody accepted it. They could see by me that's what it should have been.

"They were finding it hard to call me Erica. I might be Eric one minute and Erica another minute. One of them said 'good man yourself' and next thing 'sorry good woman yourself'! But, bit by bit they are getting around to it"

Erica has been helped in her transitioning by Trish of Cork Trans Peer Support Group, who transitioned herself 12 years ago.

Ear To The Ground is on RTÉ1 tonight at 7pm.

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