Sunday Night exclusive: Becoming Savannah

An Australian multi-millionaire heading a financial company with thousands of clients has gone public with a gender transition from male to female in an emotional journey documented by Sunday Night.

The 43 year old had been living life as Daniel Kertcher until committing recently to a transition to Savannah Jackson because life as a man felt like being "in prison".

Savannah's first photoshoot
Savannah's first photoshoot

With wife Julie, Daniel built flourishing Australian financial advisory firm Trading Pursuits and was an Army officer and a body builder.

But real life didn’t really start until three weeks ago, when Daniel announced the transition to Savannah and committing life as a woman.

"It’s surreal that it’s here. Like it’s a dream, it’s a thought, it’s a hope and a wish that you have every single day of your life. And then, to actually be here in this moment now it’s just like every Christmas all come at once," Savannah said.

"I can just be myself and that, to me, has been the greatest single gift that I have given myself is the freedom to be myself."

Getting to this point has been a long process including six years of counseling and taking hormones.

The most definitive step came in 2014 and a trip to Thailand with mum Sharon, for gender reassignment - surgery to remove the male genitals and reconstruct them as female genitalia

Remarkably, Savannah still maintains a strong relationship with the woman who became Daniel's wife of 5 years, Julie Cairns.

Savannah Jackson
Savannah Jackson

Despite Daniel’s desire to be a woman, there was always a romantic and sexual attraction to women

Julie first met Daniel as Savannah in a gay bar in Sydney's Oxford Street. Julie discovered the tall brunette lead life primarily as a man named Daniel.

They fell in love and within three months they were engaged.

"I was on the dance floor, dancing away, and I turn around and I see this very tall woman in a beautiful blue ball gown, and then very quickly I realise that's not a woman!" Julie said.

Savannah said it was love at first sight.

Julie and Savannah share adjoining apartments to care for their daughter
Julie and Savannah share adjoining apartments to care for their daughter

I went home that night and called my mum and said, "I met the girl I am going to marry"

"When we first got together, Savannah did explore the idea of going on hormones, and potentially transitioning. I just want you to know that I don't think that we can take that journey as a couple. Because I'm a heterosexual woman" Julie said.

"I had to lose my husband, I had to lose our marriage [but] I never lost my friend, I never lost my business partner."

Daniel was born in Canada the eldest of three kids to a Canadian dad and New Zealand born mum, Sharon.

The family relocated to Australia when he was 16.

Savannah during her transformation
Savannah during her transformation

"I have fantastic parents and had fantastic childhood and I enjoyed doing boy things but I didn't feel like a boy inside."

"I felt like a ghost. I have all these memories of growing up internally as a girl, but no one saw me as a girl."

Sunday Night documented Daniels journey to because the financial whiz wants world to encourage greater understanding of transgender people.

Daniel's video message to his clients
Daniel's video message to his clients

It’s been a rocky and difficult transition. After a period of having to live exclusively as a man for the sake of their daughter and business, Daniel became depressed.

It was a low point that ultimately propelled the transition.

Daniel began taking hormones and planning the surgeries he’d needed to transition to a woman and set about letting family and friends know what was happening.

"(My father) said, 'I'm grieving…I feel like my son's dying in front of my eyes."

"I can't deny his need to grieve. He has to go through that experience and he'll go through, you know, the anger and the sadness, but he'll eventually get to acceptance, and I believe he's got there now." Savannah said.

Mum Sharon has supported his the choice to transition and told Sunday Night she was just happy the news wasn’t bad.

"(Daniel) started to tell me that (there was) had something I needed to know and all I remember thinking is “You haven’t got cancer?” You’re not dying? “No” “Oh God, is that all?”

"If you love them as a boy you're going to love them as a girl."

Daniel Kertcher on a webcast
Daniel Kertcher on a webcast

One of the most challenging phases of the transformation comes as Savannah reveals herself to the thousands of clients underpinning a thriving business.

Savannah still has several more procedures planned to complete the transition, including facial and body sculpting, but now works and lives full time as a woman.