The Story So Far…
Businessman Keith Hull lost his family, his career and most of his friends when he became Stephanie Anne Lloyd. But, with the help of business partner Raiko Ristic and the financial backing of businessman David Booth, Stephanie achieved her ambition of opening the country’s first ever transvestite store.
She and David fell in love and were married on Valentine’s Day in Sri Lanka. It should have been a fairy tale start to her living happily ever after. However, as an outspoken campaigner on behalf of TVs and TSs, she wasn’t allowed to get away so lightly.
The police raid came as a complete shock. The Manchester shop, TMC offices and Stephanie’s home were all hit simultaneously in a huge operation that must have been months in the planning.
The mass invaders searched wherever, whatever and whoever they chose – including Stephanie herself – and took away boxes and boxes of videos and goods for “further examination”. The nightmare had begun.
Stephanie had known for a long time that the authorities would go to almost any lengths to drive her out of business. Her open support of transvestites and transsexuals – whom the powers that be regarded as perverts – had really got them worked up. There had been constant skirmishes with the likes of the local council, who tried to impose regulations against Transformation that didn’t apply anywhere else. Stephanie had always stood her ground, and had always eventually won.
The raid proved to be different though. The squads of police that invaded her that day did find a little nugget to hold on to amongst all the goods they seized. Some of the videos didn’t have the proper paperwork – and for that both Stephanie and Raiko were to b e sent to prison on a charge that normally brought no more than a £500 fine.
The paperwork in question was a certificate from the British Board of Film Classification. Stephanie and Raiko had tried to cut a corner on the overheads to widen their product range. It was an economy they were soon to regret. “Looking back, it was a silly thing to do, but we just hadn’t realised what the consequences could be,” said Stephanie.
“It wasn’t as if the videos were pornographic – some were information films for TVs; others were TV fantasy fiction that was available in books at that time, but not on film. The only videos around elsewhere were mostly crude and in poor taste, we thought.
“We wanted to do better for our customers by producing films ourselves and be able to sell them in our shops at an affordable price. If we had had to pay the high fees for having each film certified, it would have been impossible.
“So we thought we could do the same as other small video companies had done and avoid paying the fees. Others who had been found out had just had a slap on the wrist – we presumed we would be treated much the same.”
“It turned out we were very wrong. Instead of the standard fine of £500 and a warning from the judge, the company was hit for £6,000 – and both Raiko and I, as directors, were sentenced to a year in prison. It wasn’t so much justice as revenge.”
The police had ensured that the trial centred on the ‘perversion’ of transvestism, based on their hardened belief that all TVs were gay and worse besides. As a convicted promoter of such perversions, Stephanie was sent to a remand centre and put in with a group of mentally ill inmates.
Risley Remand Centre at Warrington – known as ‘Grisly Risley’ – is a hideous place wherever you are, but the most depressing and claustrophobic section of all is the basement, where Stephanie was locked away with just a mattress on the floor and a plastic pot in the corner. Here was a sophisticated and intelligent business woman, who had been expecting to be dining out with her husband that night, the court case behind her. Instead, she was trapped behind bars with a group of women who were, to say the least, mentally unstable.
“It’s hard to describe how awful it was to be locked up in that place. I was in total and utter shock” she said.
“The women in there should have been in a psychiatric hospital, not just shut away in prison. One of them really had the devil in her and wasn’t even trusted with a knife and fork in case she attacked someone. It was very, very frightening.”
Stephanie was kept there for three days, the longest and most tortured 72 hours of her life, before being moved to a women’s open prison near York. Open prisons often have the reputation of being little more than just holiday camps – at least amongst those who have never had to be in one. The reality is very far from that.
Stephanie found herself suddenly having to share her days and nights with convicted murderers, thieves and drug dealers. She had never come across illegal drugs of any kind before, but in prison they were rife, as was violence and intimidation amongst some of the inmates. She kept herself to herself as much as possible. She was different to the others, partly because hers was a technical offence that hadn’t harmed anyone, but mostly because of her history. She was the only prisoner there who hadn’t been born a woman.
“The worst part of it was the feeling that I was trapped in that place and there was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself out and away. We were appealing against the sentence, of course, but that seemed to be taking ages and was out of my control. “So I just had to make the best of it while I waited. And, although it was a painful experience overall, that period in my life did have its high points that I can look back on with affection.”