Caroline Paige was born in Wallasey in 1959. She joined the air cadets when she was 14, winning an RAF Flying Scholarship and gaining her Private Pilot’s License at the age of 17, finally enrolling in the Royal Air Force in 1980 when she was 20.
Caroline became a fast jet and battlefield helicopter navigator and completed 17 operational tours in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
After 18 years of service Caroline felt, “It was just getting that final realisation that, “Hang on a minute. This is my life. I get one shot at this life and what the hell am I doing living it to somebody else's expectations. I need to move on. So I did.”
Caroline informed her superiors of her need to transition and she was accepted in to the RAF as a female officer, becoming the first trans* person the openly serve in the British Armed Forces.
Caroline served another 15 years in the military, receiving a commendation in the New Years Honours List in 2012 for safeguarding lives and retired from the RAF in 2014.
“It wasn't easy transitioning gender in the military, it wasn't easy being a trailblazer or role model, but I am proud of all I did, and I am honoured to have served alongside the amazing people who helped get me there.” – Caroline Paige, Huffington Post, 24/03/2015
The portrait was displayed at the Museum of Liverpool in the exhibition Dry Your Eyes Princess
which included portraits by photographer Stephen King of people who participated in research conducted by Dr Emma Vickers, Senior Lecturer in History, at Liverpool John Moores University.
Following the exhibition this portrait was kindly donated to the Museum by Stephen.
*Definition: trans/transgender – an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.