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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 11:35 GMT
'Sex-change' vicar quits parish
Helen Savage, formerly known as Mark Savage
Helen Savage, formerly known as Mark Savage (Picture, The Journal)
A Northumberland vicar of 10 years has quit his parish post to undergo a sex-change operation.

Married father-of-two Mark Savage, 48, has told friends and family to call him Helen.

The Anglican bishop of Newcastle has given his support to the gender-switch plan.

Helen Savage said the pain of living as a woman inside a man's body had brought him close to a nervous breakdown.

Mr Savage, 48, quit as the vicar of St Cuthbert's Church in Bedlington, saying he suffers from a condition known as gender dysphoria.

The Right Reverend Martin Wharton, the Bishop of Newcastle, promised his support.

Mr Savage said he was reassured by his wife of 15 years Olwen, who intended to carry on living a normal married life by her husband's side.

Mr Savage told the Newcastle-based Journal newspaper: "Living as a man has driven me to the point of nervous breakdown.

"I have known since I was a child that I should be a woman.

"I am sorry to leave my job, but now I'm finally free to live my life as an ordinary woman with the full support of my family.

Mark Savage and wife Olwen
Olwen Savage supports her husband (Picture, The Journal)

"I grew up wanting to be a girl. But when I went through puberty testosterone took over and I became attracted to one very special woman who became my wife.

"There have never been any secrets between us.

"I told Olwen before we got married that I was a woman trapped in a man's body."

Olwen, a 49-year-old special needs teacher, said: "I still feel as committed to Helen as I ever did.

Speech therapy

"I am still dedicated to my husband and I intend to stand by him. I am getting used to calling him Helen."

A statement by the diocese of Newcastle said: "The former vicar will be living as a private individual during this time and will be known as Helen Savage.

"The bishop asks for respect and sensitivity for the whole Savage family, who are supporting Helen through a challenging medical process."

Mr Savage has had electrolysis to remove facial hair and speech therapy to change his voice.

He now dresses as a woman and will have full sex-change surgery on the NHS.



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