‘I lost a husband but gained a wife’- Derbyshire couple ‘stronger than ever’ after Simon becomes Jackie
It’s the ‘little things’ that Julie misses about her husband, Simon- like the heady cloud of aftershave he’d leave behind as he kissed her at the door before trotting off to work.
But despite the odd wistful moment, there was ‘never any doubt’ in Julie’s mind their marriage of 35 years would withstand Simon’s decision to transition into a woman named Jackie.
In fact, the brave Chesterfield pair are ‘stronger than ever’ and renewed their vows as a same-sex couple last year- donning their dream dresses to tie the knot for a second time.
Now Julie, 62, and Jackie, 59, have shared their heartwarming story on Channel 4’s The Making of Me- opening up conversations about love and loyalty.
The remarkable documentary takes viewers through the couples’ ups and downs during Jackie’s gender reassignment journey- including three gruelling operations.
Jackie, a project manager, said: “It took 50 years of living as a man for me to finally transition. Growing up in Scarborough in the 60s and 70s, I had always felt different, but I couldn’t really work out why.
“There was no awareness, no education. It would have been hard enough to come out as homosexual back then, let alone as transgender, not that I knew what that was.”
Enrolling at Sheffield University as an engineering student, then Simon met Julie through his landlord and they began a whirlwind romance, marrying two years later.
There was no ‘lightbulb moment’, says Jackie, and ‘things just happened very slowly and naturally, as a progression’.
“Simon had lovely long nails and would ask me to paint them for him,” said Julie.
“But I think the turning point came when he listened to a radio programme about transvestites, which he seemed to identify with.
“I said to him, well, is that what you think you are? He said, I think so, yes.
“I went out and bought women’s clothes, shoes and wigs. That weekend, we had fun putting Jackie together.”
But at 52, Simon decided crossdressing behind closed doors wasn’t enough, and he had ‘the conversation’- admitting to Julie that he wanted to become a fully-fledged woman.
“The world was changing, I knew that for sure,” said Jackie. “But I also became conscious of the fact time was going by, and fast. It was now or never. And I knew that Simon was history.”
“It was difficult at first,” said Julie, who still keeps pictures of Simon around the house.
“I did grieve for Simon, of course I did. But there was never any doubt that I’d be sticking by Jackie forever.
“There had always been communication between us, no taboos, we had always been so open- and that softened the blow.
“Yes, I felt a great deal of sadness, but it didn’t come close to what I would have felt had I lost her altogether. The love I felt for her compensated for what I had lost, easily.”
It turned out telling Julie was the easy part- Jackie now faced a traumatic visit to the GP, which she had been putting off for years- as well as breaking the news to her daughter, Emma, and her colleagues.
“Up until that point, I’d been buying hormones off the internet,” said Jackie.
“But the time came when I needed to approach a doctor. It was the first time I’d been public about my transgender feelings.”
Fortunately, Jackie’s supportive colleagues accepted her with open arms. She even turned up on her first day as a woman to find ‘Welcome Jackie’ had been written on the mirror of the ladies’ loos in red lipstick.
Emma, now 44, also stood by her dad, now mum- and says her two grown up children ‘don’t bat an eyelid’ over their ‘Grandad Jackie’.
“Time heals,” Jackie said. “And now, driving to work, I find myself smiling like I never have before.
“For the most part, there has been no adjustment. It’s just normal. It’s just me.”