Have you ever come up against the voice of society that says ’Be yourself. But not like that’?

Since she was a child of four or five, Highgate actress Rebecca Root knew that she wanted to change because although her outside appearance saw her labelled as a boy, inside she knew she was female.

But she struggled for years with the idea of becoming her true self, against parents who “bless them always made it clear that dressing as a girl was not the sort of things little boys did“, the expectations of lovers, and the possibility of making her career as an actor and voiceover artist.

“I always thought it was something I would have to suppress,“ she explains.

But when she watched the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry, the real-life story of trans man Brandon Teena played by Hilary Swank, it gave her the confidence to take the plunge.

“It’s set in quite a depressed and difficult area,“ says Rebecca who will be talking about the film at ArtHouse in Crouch End next week as part of its monthly LGBT series, “and I thought if he can do it in that environment, when, at the time, I was working full-time in the box office at the Royal Opera House and my life was quite comfortable, middle class and safe, a million miles from that, I thought if he can do it, so can I.

“It gave me that sense of having to be true to myself.“

Rebecca changed her name by deed poll and lived as a women for two years before undergoing surgery in 2005 and says there is nothing she misses from her old life.

“Who you are inside is there from the moment you are born, if not before, so the name Graham was a label in as much as I had a label which signified I was male.“

And she feels attitudes to transitioning have already changed since then.

“In the olden days it was much more binary in terms of gender identity – male or female – but now it is much more fluid and the medical provision accommodates that so some people don’t opt for surgery. “

At first the acting work did dry up, but Rebecca found a second career as a voice coach, teaching freelance at East 15 Acting School in Loughton and Southend, and working with private clients at her home in Highgate and across the world in Mexico, Norway and America.

But now the 45-year-old, who moved to London aged 18 to study drama at Mountview Academy in Wood Green, is finally getting her big break as an actress in BBC2 drama Boy Meets Girl, the first British sitcom to star a transgender actor.

“Hopefully it is the chance of a lifetime and will put me on the map,“ she says. “I always felt I have been difficult to cast because I’m trans, and I hope this will lead to more parts.“

Rebecca has in fact already landed a small role in upcoming film The Danish Girl in which Eddie Redmayne stars as transgender pioneer Einar Wegener – a casting which is causing some controversy.

“I said when I auditioned ’this part was written for me and I should have played it 15 years ago’, but now Eddie is an Oscar-winning actor it will put bums on seats having a famous person in that role.

“It has caused some upset in the trans community though.“

She met Eddie on set recently, chatting briefly about her experiences, and says he is a “lovely bloke“ but adds: “In my world I would say you should always try to cast according to the character, so if you can employ a transgender person to play a transgender character, in the same way you would employ a black person to play a black character, if there is such a thing.

“I think nowadays with race certainly unless something explicit is in the storyline, characters are just characters irrespective of the colour of their skin. I’m hoping that’s going to happen with gender identity.“

She sees Boy Meets Girl, in which her character Judy starts a relationship with a younger man, as taking the first steps towards this.

“The fact that she’s trans is sort of incidental,“ Rebecca says. “She is a woman who is falling in love and that’s the bottom line. And that’s what’s gorgeous about it, it’s so human and that’s why I was drawn to it because it doesn’t go on and on about being trans.“

Growing up, one of her role models was transgender writer Jan Morris and today Rebecca is herself a mentor with education group Gendered Intelligence and a member of activist group All About Trans.

She says of playing Judy: “If I become a role model and give an inspiration to people to follow their dreams or hearts and be true to themselves then brilliant. That’s why I want to have this conversation with you now and do the talk at the ArtHouse.

“I’m 6ft 1ins and the last person anyone would expect to transition, so it just goes to show.“

She adds: “At the end of the day you just have to be true to yourself. If you are living your life for society or what other people think – then what sort of life is that?“

ArtHouse, Tottenham Lane, Crouch End, Wednesday, March 25, 8.30pm. Details: arthousecrouchend.co.uk