Chapter 11 Rollercoaster The effect on our business and our lives was immediate. Suppliers suddenly started experiencing 'problems' with the fulfilment of our orders, goods failed to turn up, and many of the people with whom we had previously traded quite happily and satisfactorily began to find excuses for not being able to trade with us at all now. All our female customers deserted us, apart from one or two stragglers who were motivated more by curiosity than by desire to remain loyal. Clearly, we could no longer continue trying to cater for both the male and female market; there were enough other beauty parlours around to take care of the women who no longer wanted to be associated with us, but very few, if any, outlets catering exclusively to the male transvestite market. Theoretically, the decision was an easy one to make; practically, however, the problems that the publicity was causing us had the potential to scupper all our well-laid plans. But they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, and though our arrest seemed like a disaster at the time it soon transpired that the publicity had achieved the one thing we had never been able to do - it had promoted the nature of our business to a nationwide audience, and within days we were deluged with mail from transvestites requesting information on the products we supplied. Naturally, the neighbours were appalled to think that they had had a practising transsexual prostitute living in their midst all this time. Tongues wagged, curtains twitched and the 'strange goings-on' at 413, Bury Old Road became the hottest topic of the year. We had a visit from a local council official who informed us that we were trading illegally by opening on Sundays and that in future we could only stay open until eight in the evening on weekdays with just one late-night opening till nine. Several attempts were made to get our shop classified as a 'sex-shop', to which I responded by stating that I had no objections to this classification providing Marks and Spencer, Dorothy Perkins and all the other shops and stores retailing female lingerie were reclassified too! Obviously, my extra-curricular activities ceased the moment I was arrested. Frankly I wasn't too unhappy, because I was quite looking forward to the fresh challenge that lay in front of me: putting into operation some of the many plans that Raiko, David and I had for expanding our business, moving into publishing and setting up a mail order operation. David's wife, Ethel was absolutely furious when she read the newspapers, and commanded him to withdraw his financial backing and sever all his connections with Raiko and myself. But David, being David, calmly told Ethel that he saw no good reason for dissolving such a good business partnership. Then Ethel played her trump card. She gave him an ultimatum: 'Either break off this business relationship or we're finished.' None of this was made known to me until several weeks had passed, which again is a measure of the kind of man David is, for he'd no more consider dumping his problems on other people than he would going back on his word. Now that there were no barriers between us, David, Raiko and I began to spend more time together planning the new direction our business was to take; and, whilst David still continued to run his supermarkets and have little day-to-day involvement in Transformation, the three of us inevitably grew closer as friends. One Tuesday evening, when David called round for his normal weekly update on thebusiness, he finally informed me in a typically understated fashion that he was experiencing domestic problems. 'What kind of domestic problems, David?' I enquired, thinking he would tell me of some little difficulty he and Ethel might be having with one of their daughters. 'Ethel's given me an ultimatum: Transformation or divorce.' My stomach turned over as the full implication of David's simple statement sank in. 'Then you must pull out of Transformation, Raiko and I will do all we can to repay your investment, although it might take us years before we're in a position to repay you in full.' Characteristically, David made no further comment and merely carried on discussing how far we had got with our new business plan. When David left I immediately rang Raiko to inform him of this latest turn of events. Although the prospect of losing David as a business partner was a bitter blow professionally, both of us felt equally devastated at the thought of losing him as a friend. Moreover, I just couldn't understand Ethel's extreme reaction: 'How can anyone put the person they love in such a position, Raiko?' I asked in despair. With wisdom far beyond his years, Raiko merely replied: 'Because Ethel obviously doesn't love David, Stephanie.' Knowing there was nothing we could do that wouldn't make matters worse for David, Raiko and I agreed that, as neither of us wanted to make his life more difficult or complicated than we had seemingly already done, we should leave it up to David to dictate what should be done and how. David continued to make his Tuesday night visits to the flat, but made no more mention of Ethel's ultimatum. Naturally I was concerned for David's sake, but I didn't feel that it was up to me to raise the subject with him. Then one evening, six weeks later, he arrived looking tired, scruffy and slightly the worse for wear. 'David, what's wrong with you?' You look as if you've been sleeping rough,' I chided him. Without a word David produced from his briefcase a solicitor's letter asking him to vacate the material home. Then the whole story came tumbling out. I listened in horror as David told me how he had been sleeping on the floor of his office for the past four nights and living on biscuits and snacks. 'For Christ's sake, David, why didn't you tell me? You're a shareholder in this business. You have every right to seek our support and help. You know there's a spare bedroom here that you could have used.' I was very upset that David hadn't confided in either Raiko or myself, and ashamed and mortified that we hadn't had the insight to see how bed things really were for him. Throughout the time I had known him, and no matter what I had been through or done, David had never offered me anything other than kindness, generosity and support. I wanted to do whatever I could for him now, in his hour of need. Briskly, I started ordering him around. 'Right, get out of those clothes and into the bath. I'm going to wash your shirt and underwear, press your suit and cook you a good square meal.' Too tired to argue or resist, David meekly did as he was told. Refreshed by his bath and relieved at finally having shared his problems with someone, David allowed his tongue to loosen as we shared a bottle of good red wine over dinner. Soon he was pouring out all the details of the unhappy years of his marriage - Ethel's apparent disinterest in sex, her lapses on two occasions when she had left him for another man and, finally, that the only reason he had stayed with Ethel was for the sake of their children. Ashamed, I could only reflect on how vastly I had underestimated this man. I had - wrongly, I now knew - assumed that he would dissolve our partnership, but clearly his commitment to Transformation, Raiko and myself was far more binding than I had ever imagined. Like a mother hen, I made up a bed in the spare room and shooed David off for a good night's rest. As I lay in my own bed, unable to sleep, all I could think about was how unfair life was and how it always seemed that the nicest of people were appreciated the least. Maternal feelings welled up in me: I wanted to look after David, to protect him from the world, to offer comfort and to hold him - and to tell him that I, at least, cared. Impulsively I rose from my bed, slipped into my dressing gown and knocked on David's bedroom door. 'Can't you sleep, either?' I said when he invited me in. 'No.' 'Then why don't you come into my bed and stay awake with me?' Taking him by the hand, I drew David out of his room and into my own. We lay together in the darkness, our arms loosely draped around one another as we talked and I tried to offer what comfort I could. Then our embrace tightened and we were kissing. Within moments we were making passionate love. Afterwards, we talked some more and then, slowly, gently and in total contrast to his previous wild abandon, David made love to me a second time. From that moment on there was no question of David ever going home again. We continued to live together and from a firm basis of friendship and trust, our love for one another slowly grew and grew into total devotion and a marriage that has now survived for over 30 years. The following Sunday I invited Raiko to join me on my daily walk with Sheba in the park. We stopped to buy and ice cream, and as we sat there enjoying the glorious sunshine I told him what had happened between David and myself, desperately wanting - and needing - his approval. In the event Raiko was delighted for us, though he couldn't resist impishly declaring: 'At least now we can keep all shares in the family!' Terrified that the police might try and harass me if I appeared still to be involved in Transformation, I officially resigned as a director and kept a low profile, basing myself at one of David's supermarkets involving myself in marketing side of his business, As in everything we have done together since, David and I both put in the same amount of effort and hard work. Before long the lovely, lazy Sunday I had so briefly enjoyed became a thing of the past as I worked with David in the supermarket from seven in the morning till eleven at night, seven days a week. On Monday, 2 December 1985, Raiko and I were finally hauled up in court. However, despite the fact that they'd had nine months to prepare, the police still hadn't managed to file all the necessary papers on time. The judge was obviously so annoyed and exasperated by the police and the prosecution's bungling of the whole affair that, much to my amusement and their dismay, he actually gave them a public ticking off in court before adjourning the trial for 24 hours to give himself time to read all the information that had been compiled against me. Back we went the next day. This time, we were approached by the police before the trial even started. They wanted to do a deal: in return for changing my plea from not guilty to guilty they'd drop all charges against Raiko. But Raiko was insistent that I should not be allowed to take all the blame. I argued the point on the grounds that Raiko had a family whose lives would be affected if he was found guilty, while the only person who would be affected if I were convicted would be David - and we knew he'd stand by me no matter what ensued. Besides, I pointed out, if Raiko were free at least he could take care of the business if I did get a prison sentence. Privately, we both felt that we stood a very good chance of getting acquitted, but in the end the safest bet seemed to be to accept the deal. My barrister submitted a plea of mitigation, during which he recounted in melodramatic detail all the misfortunes of my unusual life and stressed the fact that we had taken the best legal advice available and had sincerely believed that what we proposed to do was not illegal. Furthermore, he pleaded, the fact that we had been so open about our activities was surely proof enough that we were genuinely convinced we had been complying with the law. Then came the moment I'm sure every defendant dreads; the actual summing up and sentencing by the judge. I knew the law did not recognise me as a woman, so if I was found guilty I would be sent to a male prison. The thought of the horrors that would undoubtedly befall me there made me feel faint. It also struck me as ludicrous that I could be charged as a female prostitute plying her trade and then be sentenced as a man! After stating that, whilst all the evidence had proved that my transgressions had been committed in complete ignorance of the law, ignorance was no plea in relation to the law and therefore was not recognised by the law, the judge looked me straight in the eye and solemnly declared: 'Stephanie Anne Lloyd, I sentence you to twelve months' imprisonment suspended for twelve months.' He then went on to say that he was not imposing any fines and that all costs were awarded against the Crown. By this time, however, I was in such a state of shock that I was totally unable to comprehend what was happening. Seeking some interpretation of what had just occurred, I looked across at Raiko's jubilant face in the public gallery. But it was only when the prison officer standing behind me moved forward to touch me on the shoulder and inform me that I was free to go that I realised I wasn't actually heading for a cell. As Raiko and I hugged each other, with a mixture of elation and disbelief, the media swooped. That evening all the local papers had a field day. The Bolton Evening news devoted its entire front page and page two to reporting every sordid little detail, and the following day the Sun broadcast the story under the headlined: 'CALL ME MADAM - Sex-swap executive became a vice queen.' No matter how much I hated it, it seemed I was forever destined to be in the news. As always, David proved to be a tower of strength and a tremendous comfort to me, telling me that in a few days the story would be yesterday's news and life would soon return to normal for us. But as it turned out, our problems were still far from being over. The very next day David received a telephone call from his father, who bluntly asked him whether he was the mysterious 'other businessman' mentioned in the articles about me. As always, David was unable to lie. When he told me what had transpired I was immediately how upset he was, and it didn't take much imagination to understand how distraught his parents must be too. 'There's only one thing to do, David,' I said. 'We should go over there straightaway, and I must tell your father the whole story myself.' David's father, who lived with his second wife in Bolton, (David's mother had previously died) had been far from pleased when David and Ethel had split up. So I could imagine only too well how he must be felling now that he had discovered that not only was David living with another woman who had undergone a sex change operation, but that that same woman was also a convicted prostitute...! In the light of that knowledge, the fact that David's parents agreed to see me at all was nothing short of a miracle. When we arrived the first thing I said was 'All I ask of you,' I said, 'is that you give me an hour to tell you my story.' I then gave David's parents a brief resume of my life story over a pot of tea. When I had finished, I merely said: 'And I'd like to reassure you that, no matter what you might think afterwards, I don't want anything ever to come between you and your relationship with David.' To their credit and my astonishment, David's parents sat in silence while I told them all the details. Even more remarkably, they didn't reject me out of hand when I had finished. Whatever their private fears for their son and their thoughts about me, they made a decision to give me a chance to prove my love for David and, in doing so, to prove myself to them. Subsequently, they saw us still happy with one another, still very much in love and still totally committed to a future together - and these two exceptional people have, I know, taken me as much to their hearts as I have taken them to mine. (sadly neither are still with us) How many people, I sometimes ask myself, would have been so tolerant and accepted me so openly and warm-heartedly as these dear parents-in-law of mine? And how very lucky I am to have found not only a husband as wonderful as David, but two loving new parents as well! When I consider my good fortune, it makes me feel humble and I can only marvel at the proof they have all given to me: that given time and the opportunity, love can indeed transcend all problems and barriers. With the traumas of the trial and David's difficulties with his parents now behind us, our life together began to take on a new sweetness. One evening when we were in bed together after a celebratory meal with Raiko, David took me in his arms and whispered words that took my breath away: 'Stephanie, I love you. Will you marry me?' I could hardly believe my ears . David had never before said the words 'I love you', though his actions had never left me in any doubt that he did. My response was to burst into tears. Poor David didn't know what to think as my sobs made incoherent nonsense of my attempts to say 'yes'. Much later, as David lay sleeping, I gazed at his face and marvelled at my incredible good fortune in having met this man who had come to mean so very much to me. Contrary to what people who don't know David often imagine, he was - and is - a normal, well-adjusted, heterosexual male. He's also considerate, thoughtful and probably the most dependable person I've ever met in my entire life. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that David wasn't interested in me out of some bizarre form of curiosity. He didn't want me for money, for power or for anything else other than pure love, and that he should not only love me - a person whom most of the world had rejected - but had every intention of proving his love in the eyes of a disbelieving world by actually marrying me struck me as quite the most astonishing miracle that had ever happened to me. As I lay there that night, mentally hugging myself with unbelievable joy, I resolved that whatever else I did in my life, my first priority would be always to make David happy. (Unfortunately being human there have been a few times over the years when I haven't) Accepting David's proposal was the easiest thing in the world for me, but actually marrying him in the eyes of both the church and the law of England was, of course, quite impossible. My birth certificate (which could not be changed under current British law) proclaimed I was a man, and therefore legally I could only ever marry a female. David went to great lengths to seek expert legal advice and was advised that, though there were some countries in which we could be legally married, our marriage would never be officially recognised in Britain. Confirmation of that fact, however, merely served to increase David's efforts to find a way for us to get married. In February 1986 we flew to Sri Lanka armed with all the necessary documentation, and on 14 February, Valentine's Day, we finally became husband and wife in what, for me, will always remain one of the most romantic locations in the world. I had brought a beautiful off-white dress (white seemed somehow inappropriate)with me to wear for the ceremony and despite our regret that our families and closest friends could not be with us, we had a perfect wedding. Strangers quickly became friends, especially when the "Wettanmy" brothers who owned the hotel and who had played cricket professionally for the Sri Lankan team volunteered to be the witnesses to fulfil the legal requirements. As we stood there together, the thought ran through my mind, 'Could this man who had already brought so much happiness and joy into my life really want me as his wife? Could he be so sure of his love for me that he would bind himself to me for the rest of our lives?' All my doubts were swept away when David said the immortal words, 'I do'. I tearfully echoed David's pronouncement and happily committed the remainder of my life to the man who had taught me what true love really means. now nearing 30 years together seems to suggest it will last. Our fairytale honeymoon was to be the last break David and I were to have together in a long, long time, for once we returned to England we both knew that all our energies would have to be concentrated on turning Transformation from a fledgling company that showed promise into the kind of multifaceted group we both knew it had the potential to become. Gradually our self-imposed punishing schedule of working long hours seven days a week began to pay off, but on the personal front we were still beset by problems. David's ex-wife, Ethel, refused to be content with the generous settlement she had received on their divorce. As a loving and devoting father, David had fought for access to Lisa and her sister, Dawn. Despite Ethel's' attempts to wage a bitter war against us, primarily on the grounds that I was a bad influence, both girls had maintained that they wished to see both their father and myself. Their statement had gone a long way towards convincing the courts that as I was not a threat David should be allowed to see his daughters and bring them to our home, the only proviso being that we would not be allowed to take Lisa and Dawn out of the country together. Effectively, this meant that if David wanted to take the girls on holiday abroad I would not be allowed to accompany them. Though neither of us could work out the reasoning behind such a judgement, it seemed like a small price to pay at the time. I still missed my own children dreadfully and although I had written a personal letter to each of them I had not received a reply. Even though Lisa and Dawn could never replace Stephen, Andrew and Rebecca in my heart, we soon developed a warm, friendly relationship which helped to assuage the pain and sorrow I still felt at missing so much of my own children's growing years. From the very first, though, I laid down some ground rules with the girls. 'Two parents are enough to wish on any child,' I told them frankly. 'Therefore I have no wish to replace your mother, or even to be a stepmother to you both. You have one mother - you don't need another. But I would like to be your friend.' And that's exactly what we have become: friends. Soon afterwards Lisa had an almighty row with her mother, after which we received a telephone call from Ethel announcing that she was bringing Lisa over 'with all her things'. So at two in the morning Lisa was dumped on our doorstep with five carrier bags, and she stayed with us for several months. Unfortunately, the knowledge that Lisa was quite content to stay with us for several months must have been the last straw for poor Ethel. A few months later we received a telephone call from a reporter working on the Sunday People who claimed to have been given the story by the ex-Mrs Booth, alleging that David had not only left her penniless and stolen her daughter, but that she was living in penury in a council flat (after having been evicted 'because David had not kept up the mortgage payments' on their house) while we were living like millionaires! I was outraged. The truth was that David had signed the house over to Ethel and had made a substantial financial settlement which she had been advised to accept by no less than five different solicitors whom she had consulted in turn. All of this I coolly pointed out to the reporter. 'If you don't believe me,' I said, 'I will give you the names of both her solicitor and ours, and you can check the facts out for yourself.' Two weeks later a damaging - and patently untrue - story appeared in the Sunday People, outlining Ethel's account. I was incensed, because not only was there not one grain of truth in the report, but they clearly hadn't bothered to check any of the facts or to print one word of David's version. I wasn't bothered for my own sake, but I was very angry on David's behalf. Immediately I complained to the Press Council, and after much fighting, wrangling and a large number of solicitor's letters flying back and forth a hearing was set. And what a farce it was! Suffice it to say that, while the Sunday People were rebuked for not bothering to check the facts, the complaint was not upheld. I'm afraid that none of my brushes with British law or the establishment have caused me to revise my opinion that British law is laughable and that there is no such thing as honour, truth and justice when it comes to British press.