(CNN)Late on a night out in the English city of Leeds, Verity Smith, unsteady on foot and unsure in mind, calls her best friend from a bar. With the din of disco in the background, the then twentysomething says out loud for the first time that she thinks she has been born the wrong sex.
Transgender rugby player: 'I've had blood spat in my mouth'
Told to stop being silly, Smith says no more for over a decade. There is a fear of losing friends, of upsetting family, but, crucially, an all-consuming dread that by being true to herself she would be stopped from playing the sport she loves.
The torment took its toll. Smith, then playing in the top division of women's rugby in England, often cried into the night. There were times when she contemplated suicide.
"It was always there but I just couldn't say anything because I didn't want to lose the chance of playing rugby because it's all I've ever had," the 37-year-old, now in transition, tells CNN Sport.
"My dad died when I was 17 and my mum was sick most of her life and she died when I was in my 20s and so rugby was my family.
"The thought of losing that used to make me think it was better I wasn't there, then nobody would have to deal with it and nothing could be taken away from me."
But then society progressed and sport changed and the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the sport's governing body in England, made clear that anyone wanting to play the game could do so "without prejudice," giving Smith an opportunity to, he says, "be who I want to be."
"When the new rugby laws came out I thought, 'enough is enough.' One of my mates dragged me to the doctors and wouldn't let me out," says Smith, laughing.
Physically still a female, Smith has been injecting testosterone for 18 months. Having gone through the menopause early and suffered with polycystic ovarian syndrome, he has been taking the hormone since he was 19 years old but injecting it has made its effects stronger, allowing Smith to grow a full beard.