Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and grew up in Stonehaven, south of Aberdeen, in the North East of Scotland. He had a generally unhappy and dislocated childhood, including a spell at boarding school, where he was abused. He was an outwardly popular and charismatic kid but after suffering years of sexual abuse made worse by gender dysphoria, he decided to join the British Army to camouflage her real personality.
Hamilton joined as an officer in the Royal Irish Rangers in 1983, serving in Northern Ireland. He retrained as a TV cameraman in 1987, working for Scottish Television. His military background saw him dispatched to war zones covering the Gulf War 1, the civil wars in Angola and Afghanistan, and the conflict in Bosnia. He then worked as a director for Scottish and Anglia Television in the 1980 -90's, before leaving to become bureaux chief of Edinburgh Live TV in 1996. In 1997 Hamilton was promoted to editor-in-chief of Live's City TV network by boss Kelvin MacKenzie. Hamilton resigned from his position at Live TV in 1998, after management changes at their Canary Wharf Headquarters, and took up a senior management position at Granada TV. He has been nominated 2ce by the British Academy for his television work.
During 1995, Hamilton rejoined the Army. As an over-age candidate, he joined the Territorial Army and then served with the Regular Army on a series of specialised contracts called Full Time Reserve Service. He later joined the Parachute Regiment in 2003, having already passed the stringent selection process at age 35, and went on to elements of Special Forces selection with 22 SAS, becoming a combat survival and a physical training instructor. He served with the Cheshire Regiment and The Highlanders in a variety of command appointments, as well as a number of staff appointments both in the UK and overseas, with a specialty in Information and Psychological Operations. He served on operations in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, the War in Afghanistan and Gulf War 2, where he commanded a unit from 4 PARA. He returned to the United Kingdom in 2006 and spend a period recovering from two continuous years on operations before taking a position back in Afghanistan with NATO Forces, from where he was medevacked back to the UK with a serious infection.
His counsellors confirmed in early 2007 that he had Gender Dysphoria and from that point she bagan to live in role in preparation for surgical intervention. Since then, Jan has had breast augmentation, facial re-construction and finally full gender re-assignment in early 2008.
She informed her Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. AABR Bruce of Crionaich, of her intention to change gender, and was dismissed from her up-coming post as head of Media Operations in Gibraltar without being granted an interview, to which she was legally entitled. For 14 months, Lt. Col. Bruce refused to meet with her or comment on the future of her career, despite repeated requests. A senior officer told her, "You've gone from hero to zero in one day". Hamilton was prevented from appearing at the Parachute Regiment annual officer's dinner. Her family sent her belongings to her with a note saying, "Our son is dead – never contact us again."
Her lawyers repeatedly sought to meet with the Army to settle the issue out of court. Transgender individuals in the UK are protected under a number of legislative acts, including the Sex Discrimination Act Amendments, 1999, and the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, which make it illegal to treat an individual differently on the grounds of gender alone, with the aim of protecting the rights of trans-people in the work-place. Although other individuals in the Royal Navy and Air Force have successfully transitioned in the service, as the first officer and first paratrooper, Jan's otherwise macho background caused considerable surprise to the Army, particularly in the light of constant media attention.
The issue has now been amicably resolved and Jan has resigned her commission. Army policy on trans-gender soldiers is now currently under review. The Regimental Colonel of The Parachute Regiment has written to Jan to thank her for her "years of loyal service as an Airborne Officer".
Jan was the subject of a documentary on Channel 4 (UK) in March 2008 entitled "Sex Change Soldier", a candid and emotional detailing of her journey from Paratrooper to Woman. This has been repeated several times on UK television and sold to a number of other territories. It was the most commented programme on Channel 4 during the month of its original broadcast.
Recent press reports state Jan has settled her differences with the Army and has resigned her commission. The MOD have confirmed she is leaving the Army and does so with the Army's "best wishes".
Jan has been selected as Miss Scotland to represent her country at the up-coming Miss International Queen pageant in Thailand, the number one beauty competition in the World for trans-women, which is covered live on Thai national television.
She continues to undertake a number of training and advisory roles on gender issues, including Lancashire Police.
Jan has ended up on several front pages of UK national newspapers, and made many television and radio appearances, . She was rumoured to be a possible participant in Big Brother 9 or I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!. However, she has not appeared on Big Brother.
Most recently, Jan was reported extensively in the press, and very prominently in the News of the World, to have secured a £250,000 pay-out for "hurt feelings" from the MOD. She has received several threats of violence from serving soldiers against her because of the attendant publicity of this case but stridently denied the pay-out and currently has 3 complaints against various newspapers lodged with the Press Complaints Commission.
The Mail Online, UK / at 6:42 PM on 16th July 2008 confirmed in a retraction issued, that they "in an article on 31 May may have suggested that Jan Hamilton had sought £250,000 for hurt feelings in her industrial action against the MoD." and that they "are happy to clarify that Ms Hamilton neither sought nor received £250,000 for hurt feelings." Jan has insisted that they make a sizeable donation to service charities to compensate for the hurt done to the families of injured service personnel, whose pay-outs for wounds receieved were compared to the mythical 250K pay-out.