A month later Marylin gave me her answer: ‘I’ve thought long and hard about this, Keith, and if this is the only way in which you can live, then it must be the right thing to do.’
So the die was cast and I bought a copy of the Manchester Evening News and scanned the accommodation ads. I made a phone call, arranged to view a flat the very next day and paid six month’s advance rent on my new home.
Marylin and I had discussed what we would tell the children and the only plausible explanation we had been able to come up with was to say that I had an illness for which the only cure was intensive hormone treatment. That treatment, we said, would result in my becoming a woman. Though Stephen and Andrew were thirteen, and Rebecca even younger, I don’t think they were old enough or mature enough to absorb fully what we were saying. None of them said a word – they merely clung to me and cried.
There was a lump in my throat as I looked at Marylin’s face. Leaving her was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but by now we were both resigned to the fact that the die had finally been cast in a bizarre nightmare that had begun long before we had even met.
For seven long, traumatic years I had refused to acknowledge the truth about myself. My denial had caused me to inflict more pain on Marylin than anyone has the right to inflict on someone they love, and I felt bitterly ashamed of my selfishness. I knew, too, that I was the only person who would benefit from what I was about to do. For those whom I loved, there could only be more suffering.
Two weeks later I signed on with a new doctor in Todmorden, (luckily although it was the same surgery as Dr. Harold Shipman practised, I was assigned to another partner)and though he was undoubtedly surprised and nonplussed to be confronted by a new patient with a condition he had not heard of let alone treated he gave no sign. In fact I have to say he rose remarkably to the occasion. Dr Ryland listened patiently, oblivious to the queue that was building up in his waiting room and then, after admitting that he knew nothing whatsoever about transsexuals, assured me that he would make it his business to gather all the information he could before my next visit. True to his word, he contacted my old GP in Darwen and then made a special trip to Wythenshawe Hospital to consult a specialist psychologist who also treated hopeless alcoholics and drug addicts.
Like so many people who are continually confronted with the bleakest aspects of life, Dr Ryland had long since learnt the value of humour to relieve seriousness of living, and under his wonderful care I soon found my sense of humour returning. Thus it wasn’t long before my regular trips to his surgery became one of the brighter points of my week.
‘I’m going to refer you to a specialist by the name of Dr Hoare,’ he informed me during one visit. ‘He also happens to treat alcoholics, so don’t be alarmed if when you go to see him at Wythenshawe his reception area is full of men clutching brown paper bags’.
‘Crikey!’ I said, ‘I’ve just about got used to the idea of being a TS. Do you think I can cope with being regarded as an alcoholic, too?’
We got on so well that we were even able to make a joke about the hormone treatment he began to give me. ‘I’m going to put you on a drug called Androcur and another called Premarin, which is a synthetic form of oestrogen. Its name is derived from the way in which it’s produced – it comes from pregnant mares’ urine.’
‘Which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ”taking the piss”,’ I laughed.
Dr Rynald told me that the Androcur was designed to inhibit the production of male hormones, while the Premarin would at the same time flood my body with female hormones. Within six months the Androcur should ensure virtual chemical castration.
By this stage he had found a leading specialist, Dr Russell Reid, the famous consultant Psychiatrist at Charing Cross Hospital’s Gender Reassignment Clinic, who would monitor my progress at three-monthly intervals.
There was one awkward moment when I took my prescription to the local chemist. When I handed it over, the female pharmacist gave me a very odd look before taking me aside to whisper: ‘There must be some mistake. These are female hormones your
‘I know,’ I whispered back. ‘I’m a woman in disguise.’
‘Oh!’ was all she could say. But her face was a picture!
Highly embarrassed, I hung around, desperately trying to look nonchalant as she went off to make up the prescription. Despite feeling uncomfortable, I was acutely aware that this was just the beginning, and if I couldn’t put up with a little bit of embarrassment then I might as well give up now.
As soon as I got home, I shook the pills out on to the table an just sat looking at them. This is it, I told myself nervously. Once you’ve swallowed these, the decision will be irrevocable. With shaking hands I filled a glass with water, put the pills in my mouth and gulped them down – and the strange thing was that the moment I’d swallowed them an overwhelming sense of contentment swept through me. Even now, when I think back on that moment, I experience the same kind of thrill. It was the moment I truly knew that the decision had been made.
Over the next few months I watched spellbound as the gradual feminization of my body took place. Slowly, I developed breasts and hips and my waistline began to narrow. My skin became softer and smoother as the rate of hair and beard growth slowed down. I knew that by the time I started my three monthly meetings at Charing Cross with Dr Reid, who would be counselling me and vetting my progress, I would have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could cope with travelling and staying in London looking, to all intents and purposes, just like a woman. Back at work, however, where no one had the slightest idea of the treatment I was undergoing, it soon became necessary for me to keep my suit jacket on always and to wear larger shirts in order to conceal my by now sizeable breasts.
As I was earning around £ 36,000 a year, which was a stupendous salary in the early eighties, I was able to handle all my financial commitments to Marylin and the
children quite comfortably. I still saw the family fairly often. We’d even have dinner together at times, and though we were getting on better than we had done in years, I think she found coming to terms with the changes in me difficult to handle – as I’m sure anyone would. Our parents were devastated by the news of our separation, as indeed were most people who knew us. Marylin and I had made a pact not to discuss my impending ‘change’ with anybody else until it was absolutely necessary and, ignorant of the true reason for our divorce.
Despite the hormones, my facial hair growth was not diminishing as fast as it should have done, so I made and appointment with a lovely motherly woman called Betty who, I was told, would use electrolysis to deal with the problem. (this was before the development of beard and body retardant creams which Medica now provides for Transformation) So three times a week, from seven-thirty till ten-thirty in the morning, I’d steel myself to visit Betty and undergo the most painful form of treatment I have ever had in my entire life. When it comes to pain, I am not a fan. Added to that, I have an absolute horror of needles, so you can imagine what an ordeal electrolysis was for me.
I am often asked questions about the actual operation and how painful it was, but remember I was asleep then, I’d rather go through the operation twice over than have to endure the agony of electrolysis again. To my mind, if anything is going to put a man off going through with gender reassignment, it’s electrolysis. My face began to look sore and red, and though at work I was able to pass this off as a reaction to shaving, the first time Marylin noticed she knew immediately what it meant. I thing that was possibly the first time that what I was about to do really hit her. Soon afterwards, she announced that she was going to move down south live with her mother.
I was shattered. It hadn’t occurred to me that she might move away, though of course it was a logical and reasonable thing for her to consider. All I could think of was that it might be ages before I’d see her or the children again. I travelled down south to see Marylin and the children settle in. The private education they had received up until now didn’t necessarily qualify the children for admission to the grammar schools we wanted them to attend. Fortunately, I was able to use my position at Hestair to make an appointment with the heads of their prospective grammar schools and, much to our relief, the children were accepted.
That night we all went out for a meal as a family to celebrate not knowing it would be for the last time. The following day I drove back north on my own, feeling dejected and totally alone.
A few month later, I was approached by a head-hunter to discuss a potential new job. Fison’s, a well-known company that sold horticultural and DIY products, would like to meet me with a view to inviting me to work my magic on their subsidiary company, Griffin and George, who, like Hestair, were involved in the educational supplies market. I duly had my meeting with the Fison’s board and was made an offer which, I had to reject knowing the treatment I faced.
Quite coincidentally and almost farcically at the same time, my chairman and managing director, called me into his office. ‘As you’re well aware,
Keith,’ he said, ‘ our turnover is now excess of £ 20 million, and as we’re considering making a sizeable investment in expansion through acquisition I believe it’s time we separated the role of chairman and MD.’
I waited patiently for Stuart to unfold his plans. ‘I’d like you to become our new MD.’
I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say. Rapidly evaluating my position, I spent the next few moments concentrating my thoughts. Here I was, with an enviable and successful track record, being confronted with the opportunity to fulfil all my career ambitions by not one but two large, well-respected companies. And yet, after eighteen months of hormone treatment, I knew that it would only be another year or so before I would change my sex. I had planned to stay with Hestair in my present position for the next year or eighteen months, and then quietly leave before the operation. Afterwards, I had thought I might open a restaurant of hotel somewhere.
‘I’m sorry, Stuart. I’m afraid I’m going to have to turn the offer down,’ I calmly said.
Now it was Stuart’s turn to be surprised. For several moments neither of us spoke as he sat there digesting my statement. Then he rose from his chair and began to pace around his office. ‘You can’t mean that, Keith, surely? I mean, if it’s a question of money …’ It wasn’t the money. It wasn’t even the offer from Fison’s. But would Stuart believe or accept that? And if he didn’t accept that, what explanation would satisfy him? My mind raced as I tried to think up a plausible reason for refusing what we both knew was a splendid opportunity. But I couldn’t think of even one. In the end, knowing that I had to give a reason, I opted to tell the truth.
‘If you’ve got an hour to spare, Stuart, I think you’d better sit down and hear what I have to say.’ Fully anticipating that I would tell him I was resigning to take up a better job, Stuart sat down to hear me out. An hour later, having sat through my entire story without uttering a single word or trying to interrupt once, (just doing good imitation of a goldfish) he was at a complete loss for words. Then, shaking his head in amazement, the only words he could find were: ‘Well, in my long career I thought I’d come across every conceivable personnel problem in the book, but I have to say this one’s a new one on me.’ Then, ‘My first reaction is to tell you that I don’t want to lose you. However, I think I need some time to let this sink in. Perhaps it would be a good idea if we discussed this over dinner somewhere privately tomorrow night.’
The next night we went to a small restaurant in Rochdale where Stuart informed me that, having given the matter much thought, he felt fairly certain that the staff, our suppliers and the board had enough respect for my abilities to except my situation and offer me their wholehearted support. ‘After all,’ he concluded, ‘it’s only your body that’s changing, not your brain or abilities!’
On hearing this news, I rapidly discarded my previous plans and gratefully and speedily accepted his offer to stay on in my present position as marketing director. I took the easy option but the wrong one that was to have disastrous consequences.
With my future now seemingly secure, I embarked on the next step of learning how to be a woman. I was introduced to Sandra, a young beautician who would teach me how to put on make-up, to walk, stand and deport myself as a convincing woman, in preparation for my new life. Over the next year Sandra proved to be a remarkable friend, always cheerful, supportive and endlessly patient as she demonstrated over and over again the correct way to apply cosmetics or explain why a certain outfit would do nothing for me at all.
I couldn’t conceive how I might look as a woman, but I was determined that, no matter how much work and practice it took, I wasn’t going to look like a man in drag – particularly as Dr Ryland had told me that the next time I visited his surgery I was to come dressed in women’s clothes. Every detail of that day, from the moment I walked out of my front door to the moment I returned, is etched on my memory in vivid detail.
My appointment was at five in the afternoon and I allowed myself four hours to get ready. I left work at lunchtime and rushed home to prepare myself. I was sweating so much through fear and nervousness that I was terrified my make-up would run. As I drove into Todmorden, I was shaking from head to foot. The reception area was laid out with chairs all facing the front, which meant that only the people sitting next to me would be able to get a good look. The problem was, we were called four at a time to go along a corridor and sit on the four chairs that were lined up against the wall outside the doctors surgery door. By the time my name was called I was panicking so much that I was sopping wet with sweat, and as I clattered along in my unfamiliar heeled shoes I was convinced that everyone in the reception area was laughing behind my back. When I finally got into Dr Ryland’s office I could only collapse weakly into a chair.
‘How do you feel?’ he asked sympathetically.
‘Exhausted…a bleeding nervous wreck! It’s taken so much out of me I feel terrible,’ was all I could say.
Dr Ryland smiled. ‘Actually, you look quite good.’
The moment I got home I poured myself a large vodka and tonic to calm my shattered nerves. If a brief visit to my own doctor could have this effect on me, how on earth would I cope with having to travel all the way to London as a woman to see Dr Reid?
Thinking about that daunting prospect reminded me that it was now imperative for me to decide on my new feminine name. I’d been advised to choose a three-syllable female names like Margaret, Isabel and Antoinette and then coming up with another girls’ Christian name to tack on the end. As I’d been warned about the danger of having three initials that spelled something embarrassing when put together, I’d sat for hours toying with various name combinations to ensure that I didn’t end up with a name like Tina Isabel Turner which might inadvertently cause a problem. I didn’t’ have a clue what I wanted to be called; I just knew that I wanted to incorporate something that reminded me of the children. So I put Stephen and Andrew together and came up with Stephanie Anne but when it came to a suitable surname I was stumped. It was only when I received a call from the hospital asking which name my appointment should be made in that the solution presented itself to me. As I cast my eyes frantically around my flat, looking for inspiration, my gaze fell upon my chequebook on the table. It bore the legend ‘Lloyds Bank’. That’s it, I thought – I’ll be Stephanie Anne Lloyd!
The next step was speech therapy, for which I had to travel to Bury General Hospital because it was one of the few hospitals in the north of England to have a special computer program that was able to detect whether a voice was male or female. I used to sit in front of a computer screen with a microphone and follow a pattern, which would be displayed on the screen. First a woman’s voice would make a statement, and then I would have to try and copy it so that the computer could match up the patterns and analyse whether it was a woman or man speaking. For months it kept saying ‘Male’, but then miraculously one day the girl at the control panel in the other room came rushing out excitedly yelling, ‘It’s a girl! It’s a girl!’ I was so thrilled that I hugged her and we danced around the room yelling, ‘It’s a girl! It’s a girl!’ like a couple of demented new fathers whose wives have just given birth! But getting my voice to sound like a woman’s to a computer was the least of my worries in this connection, for then I had to start learning about inflection, how to start a sentence and
how to end it because – women’s voices go up at the end of a sentence, whereas men’s go down.
Learning to be a woman was difficult and very confusing. For example, men are used to sit with their legs apart. When men are introduced to each other, they’re trained to shake hands firmly and look each other straight in the eye. If women do that they could be perceived as issuing an invitation! Then there were all those zips and hooks and buttons which seemed to do up in a different way. I even had to learn how to gesticulate in a feminine manner and to play with ear-rings and necklaces and twiddle my hair!
There was one unexpected benefit to all this tuition, though, because I actually found my new skills coming in very useful in the board room or at a particularly tense meeting. Previously I’d always been fairly commanding in meetings – my problem was I was a bit of a table thumper when I got annoyed. Now, however, I discovered the art of just waiting, saying nothing and looking round the table in order to bring a room under control. I soon discovered it was just as effective as banging your fist.
When Stuart, my chairman, had insisted I stay on, he had said that he would break the news about me gradually. First he would tell the board. Then he’d let management and executives in on the secret, and finally, he’d make an announcement to the staff before I left to undergo the major surgery involved. In this way everyone would have an opportunity to get used to the idea before it became fait accompli.
Once again it was decided to explain this highly complicated situation by simply repeating the story I had told the children, about an incurable condition necessitating hormone treatment which would transform me into a woman. When everyone in the company had been informed they were all very supportive. If people gossiped and speculate behind my back, it was never made known to me. The only person who didn’t seem particularly happy was the Production Director, Nick Bellamy, with whom I’d never got on, but he of all people should have been over the moon because he got the MD’s job in my place.
At that point, everything in my life seemed well. The date of my operation was drawing nearer, I’d been assured that my job was secure, and I was finally beginning to master many of the things I needed to learn to be an effective and credible woman.
The one sad aspect was that I didn’t get to see my children as often as I would have liked, but Marylin and I wrote to each other regularly and frequently spoke on the phone. Apart from that, the only cloud on my personal horizon was the prospect of having to tell my parents what I was about to do. Following my divorce, I’d been down to stay with them for odd weekends and our relationship had been fairly good, but in my heart I knew that the moment I told them the truth all hell would break loose. I kept putting the moment off. First I convinced my mind and decided phoning would be better. This went on for weeks as I deterred about how best to break the news. Finally, I knew there was no alternative: I had to visit them and tell them the truth face to face.
I left work on the Friday evening and drove straight down to Harpenden. As usual they were pleased to see me. That night I didn’t say a word – somehow I couldn’t bring myself to ruin the whole weekend. But by Saturday evening I was a nervous wreck. I said I wanted to talk to them, and we all went into the lounge. We sat for several moments in uncomfortable silence as they no doubt wondered what to expect, while I was playing for time and wondering how – and where – to begin. Eventually I took a deep breath and simply said: ‘There’s no easy way to tell you what I’m going to tell you. And there’s no way I can prepare you for the shock of what I’m going to say.’
And then I told them everything. I don’t think they believed what they were hearing. They were in such a state of shock they could only sit there staring blankly at me. Dad’s first words, when they eventually came, were; ‘What are our friends and neighbours going to say?’ If it
wasn’t so sad I might have been tempted to laugh; it was precisely the kind of inane remark people make when they’re too upset to think what they’re saying – though I’m convinced Dad hadn’t meant it the way it must have sounded. Then, after several moments of strained silence, he said: ‘ If you do this, I’ll disinherit you.’ I have never benefited from anyone’s death and would never want to My eyes travelled back and forth between the faces of my parents. I couldn’t think of anything to say. It was obvious from the look on Mum’s face that she was devastated.
In my heart I knew I had always been special to her, as sons usually are to their mothers in a way they’re not to their fathers, and I’m sure the shock was far worse than it would have been were it my sister telling them she wished to become a man.
I looked once more at my father. I knew there was no possible way I could make him understand. Having been brought up in their faith, I was all too well aware of the Jehovah’s Witness belief that the Bible teaches that men are the superior sex. Dad simply couldn’t comprehend why a member of that sex should want to give up his superiority, and not only give it up, but actually undergo surgery in order to become a member of what he had been trained to believe was an inferior sex.
There was nothing left to say and nothing that I could do, so I went to bed and lay there in the dark, hating the way I was hurting them, but knowing that things had gone too far for me to turn back now. I didn’t sleep, partly because my numb brain wouldn’t allow me to and partly because I could hear my mum crying all night long.
In the morning we all looked dreadful. Cutting my visit short by several hours, I told them I was leaving right away. Once again we went through another traumatic scene that seemed to mirror grotesquely the one we’d played years before when I told them I was marrying Marylin. They begged and pleaded with me to change my mind. Mum clung to me at the door, sobbing, while Dad stood angry and mute in the background. I had no doubt that Dad would never forgive me and that his righteous anger and indignation would see him through the weeks and months that lay ahead. But Mum?
Without doubt it must have been the worst thing she’s ever had to endure.
I drove away with the tears pouring down my cheeks. It wasn’t a case of wishing I could change my mind – it was too late for that now. I’d tried everything to avoid this decision, and nothing had worked. If my parents thought, as they’d indicated before I left, that ‘I could always go and see another doctor and it would be all right again’, they were grasping at straws. I suppose what made it even worse was that there had never been any sign of my being effeminate. With my crazy past they had every reason to believe that I was nothing less than a red blooded male who had a long succession of ‘girlfriends’.
Despite being deeply saddened and distressed by this latest breach between me and my parents, as my body took on more and more of a woman’s shape I began to be filled with a sense of wonder and awe. For more than thirty years it had looked just like every other man’s, and now, suddenly, it was totally different. Sometimes, however, my feelings were strangely ambivalent. I found it difficult to look at myself in the mirror unclothed, though I didn’t mind if I was half-dressed. I could cope with the top half looking like a woman if I couldn’t see that the bottom half still looked like a man, but it was too bizarre to see the two halves of me together. I was an in-betweeny, neither one thing nor the other, and though on the one hand it was frustrating and at times even made me feel freakish, there were also many occasions when my situation gave me cause for reflection.
One of them was during a regular three-monthly trip to London during which I had to dress and behave as a woman. By now I was becoming fairly confident whit my new ‘image’ and thought I was a rather convincing ‘lady’. It was a hot, sticky summer’s day and I was perspiring (I no longer ‘sweated’ like a man) as I caught a taxi from the station to the hotel. On arrival, the cabbie unceremoniously dumped my luggage on the pavement, leaving me to struggle into the hotel with it myself. Grumbling to myself, I staggered into the reception and rang the bell for attention, barely taking notice of a guy standing in the reception area staring at me. A few moments later the man approached with a drink in each hand and drawled in an unmistakable Canadian accent: ‘Hi, honey, you look like you could really use this.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘that’s the most novel introduction I’ve heard yet!’ If the man had offered to buy me a drink I would have refused. Instead he’d pre-empted a potential refusal by buying it anyway and offering it to me at the very moment I was most in need. I had to admire that for as I have found since , there are very few real gallant gentlemen left in this world.
That evening we enjoyed a very pleasant meal together, which he insisted on paying for. Thankfully, my companion proved to be a stimulating conversationalist and not in the least pushy, although to be fair if he had been he would have been on a hiding to nothing. As it was, I retired to my room alone and spent the night reflecting not only on how nice it was to be completely accepted as a female, but also on the novelty of having a man buy dinner for me!
What with work, my thrice-weekly date with Betty’s dreaded needle and my shopping jaunts and ‘lessons in being a lady’ from Sandra, life was fairly busy and therefore time passed quickly. But as my big day grew closer and closer I felt an increasing sense of excitement and trepidation.
After Marylin had moved south, she kindly allowed me to take the children on holiday each summer. Determined to make the most of our stay together, we all had a wonderful time. Those days remain in a corner of my memory as the brightest spots in those two and a half years before my ‘change’. The previous year we’d had a canal holiday, which was great fun, and though I’m sure Stephen, Andrew and Becky couldn’t help but be aware of the physical transformation that was taking place in me, to their credit they never once asked an awkward or embarrassing question. In fact, the only time the subject was raised was when Stephen watched me hauling our cases out of the car boot and shyly said: ‘Let me take those, Dad. Remember, you’re going to be a woman soon.’
‘Oh, my God!’ I thought, gulping in surprise. ‘I wonder if he’s really thought about what he’s saying?’ Was it nothing more than a purely spontaneous remark? Or could it be that Stephen was already coming to terms with what was about to happen to me?
This year, my very last as their father, we were going to have another holiday together just a few weeks before my operation. We decided not to do the canal trip again, but spent the time going to the theatre, shows and meals. All too soon it was time for them to return home. I drove them to Manchester Piccadilly Station on the Sunday morning to catch their train, desperately trying to conceal the tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat. I loaded them up with food, drink, chocolates and reading material, kissed them all goodbye and then walked down the platform, not daring to look back over my shoulder for fear I’d break down. As always it was heart-wrenching to see them go.
Had I but known it was going to be the very last time I would ever see them for so many years I don’t think I could ever have been able to let them out of my sight.
Just before Christmas I wrote a memo to the staff informing them that I would be leaving the company on 23 December 1983, to be replaced as a marketing director on
5 January 1984 by Miss Stephanie Anne Lloyd. It continued: …and whilst you will, no doubt, notice many differences in appearance, our management styles are identical. Miss Lloyd will face a difficult time next year and I know she will appreciate all the help you can give her. I sincerely hope that this unavoidable change will not cause any difficulties, and whilst both you and she maybe somewhat apprehensive on the 5th, I hope that it will not take long to establish a relaxed and comfortable working relationship.
Finally, may I thank you personally for the many messages of support I have received.
Whilst it was never my intention to stay when this time arrived, I am now deeply grateful to Stuart Wallis for his persuasion and support, and pleased that his prediction of people’s reactions has proved to be so accurate.
Having taken care of everything I could possibly take care of, I left my office for the last time as Keith Michael Hull. The moment I got home, I stripped off my business suit for ever. After packing a case with my female clothes I took a bath, then poured myself a drink. At long, long last my years of torment and waiting were finally over.