A Northern Irish transgender woman, a child of a top British operative in Northern Ireland, has received a temporary visa to remain in Canada while she pleads her case.

Tanya Bloomfield, who was born Timothy, is the child of former top Northern Irish civil servant Ken Bloomfield, a key figure on the British side in the peace process.

She originally moved to Nova Scotia in 2006 on a sponsorship with her partner. After applying for a temporary work and residence permit  she was denied.

Following consultation with her lawyer Lee Cohen, he advised her to file for refugee status based on the ground that she could be targeted for hate crimes if she returned to Northern Ireland.

She was treated for shock when the IRA attempted to kill her father and his family  in 1988.

She says she fears for her life is she goes back to the North of Ireland.

"Canada is a beautiful country with beautiful people. Northern Ireland is a beautiful country, but the people need a little bit of work.

"There is ingrained bigotry and homophobia. If we can’t get on as Protestants and Catholics, we sure as hell can’t get on as queer people.

"Feelings are escalating again in Northern Ireland. It’s a country that is very damaged. I have not been back to Northern Ireland since I left four years ago and I’m not going back."

She has now been granted another 18 months in Canada to prove her case.

She said: "This is incredibly important. It’s the difference between going home in two weeks and not going home. To return to Northern Ireland would put myself at risk.

"If the hearing decides against me, I’ll take it to the federal court. This isn’t just about where I’m living, this is about me fighting for my life.

"I’m very concerned about my welfare mentally and physically [if I go back]. I’d be very afraid that I could come to harm."

She told the Mail on Sunday that coming out to her parents five years ago was the hardest thing she had ever done.

"It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life," she said. "I wrote a letter to them. I hand-delivered it and asked them to think about it deeply, to get in touch in a few days once they’d had time to process it.

"They got back in touch in about 40 minutes. We met up and they were very supportive – or as supportive as they could have been considering their lack of knowledge."

Sir Kenneth, 79, and his wife Elizabeth, 74, met their son for the first time as a woman earlier this month.

"Sometimes they still call me Timothy or use “he” instead of “she” but it’s a hard habit to break when you have been one person in their eyes for 35 years, so that’s very difficult.

"I don’t think they are any less happy with a transgender child. They are immensely proud of the strength of character I’ve shown and of all I’ve achieved.”