Who's a pretty boy?

We'd been married 20 years and had 4 kids, but my husband hid a secret...

Published by: Fiona Ford
Published on: 28th January 2010

Finishing the last of the washing up, I put on another load of laundry before reaching for the vacuum cleaner.
'You work too hard,' smiled my husband Marc, 50.
'Don't be daft,' I grinned. 'It's my job to look after you and the kids.'
All I'd ever wanted was to be a traditional housewife. It had seemed to go wrong when, 20 years earlier, I'd found myself a single mum to my two girls Holly, then four, and Kimberley, two, after my relationship with the girls' dad ended.
Then I'd gone to a barbecue with a mate... and spotted the most gorgeous man ever. One flash of his smile, and I was hooked.
We'd spent the whole night chatting about my girls and his work as a carpet layer.
'Never fancied settling down yourself?' I'd asked him.
'Never found the right woman,' he'd replied, sheepishly.
That night, I'd left with his number... and the rest was history. The kids had soon fallen for him as much as I had.
Just months later, the girls had been my bridesmaids when me and Marc married. Falling pregnant with Ben, now 15, then Christopher, 13, Joshua, 11, and Samuel, nine, had been the icing on the cake.
Life was hectic, but I loved looking after my family, and was always on the go. Now, as I switched off the vacuum cleaner...
'Right, I better get the packed lunches done,' I beamed.
Even after 20 years together, me and Marc were so close. He'd never been that romantic, preferring a night out with the lads to a candlelit dinner for two, yet I never felt anything but special.
So, when he came home after work one night later that week with a face like thunder, I was
very worried.
'Sit down Penny,' he said. 'There's no easy way to say this,' he began. A pause, then...
'I-I...want to be a woman,'
he whispered.
The breath was knocked from me like someone had chucked cold water over me.
'What, how, why...?' I babbled.
Marc told me that, as a kid, he'd always wanted to be female. He'd hated playing boys' games.
'I've always felt like a woman, but hoped the feelings would disappear,' he finished. 'But I can't carry on like this, and want surgery to be a real woman.'
He might as well have ripped out my heart.
We'd had 20 years together - was our happy family a lie? Had he even liked me? Was I just for show, so people wouldn't suspect?
My life had been stolen away.
'Get out,' I screamed. 'I never want to see you again.'
Marc knew better than to argue.
I sank to the floor and sobbed, questions racking my brain. Where were the signs? We'd had a healthy relationship - heck, we still had sex! What did he mean he wanted to be a woman?
My lover, my best friend, had disappeared, I didn't know him. And who could I turn to and talk about it? Marc was always the person I told everything. Now he was the one hurting me.
Suddenly, I spotted our wedding photograph on the mantelpiece. What a joke!
Anger raced through me. Picking it up, I hurled it at the wall, smashing the frame. Not satisfied, I dug out every single wedding snap and tore them.
Marc slunk home the following day to find me all cried out.
'Penny, I never wanted to hurt you,' he insisted. 'I've been living a lie my whole life, but I wasn't lying about how much I love you and the kids.'
I looked into his eyes. The idea of losing him was unbearable. But how could we stay together now?
For the next few weeks, all we did was talk.
'Do you want to sleep with men?' I asked. 'Are you gay?'
'No, it's not that,' he replied. 'I just don't have sexual feelings at all any more.'
My head was all over the place. I wanted to be with Marc, but could I cope without sex?
But I knew one thing. 'I can't give up on my family this easily,' I said. 'Let's give it a
go... somehow.'
We had a long road ahead of us. If Marc was serious about having surgery to become a woman, we had to talk to the kids.
'Your dad feels different,' I explained. 'He might be a man on the outside but, inside, he feels like a woman.'
Amazingly, they took it well.
'We have to help him,' Ben said. 'It's not his fault.'
I was shocked. Why was nobody shouting and screaming?
'We want you to be happy,' shrugged Holly. 'Life's too short to be unhappy.'
They were right.
We went to see a psychologist and came to terms with it all. But our children were in for a rough ride. They were teased at school and often came home in tears.
Four years ago, Marc started taking female hormones, then had an operation to reduce the size of his Adam's apple. His skin became softer and he even started to develop breasts.
'I think my new name should be Marie,' he said one day.
Slowly, I started to adjust to waking up next to womanly curves, rather than a lean, muscled man. The person I loved hadn't changed at all, though - just
the packaging.
Two years ago, Marc went to Thailand to have the final operation to make him a woman. His penis was removed and he had a boob job.
I'd prepared myself for the transformation. But when he walked off the plane, I was still shocked.
'You really are a woman in every sense of the word,' I cried.
Marc and me are still very much together and in love. I'm not gay, and don't want anyone else. I once tried going on a date, but felt so freaked out, I raced home to Marc - or Marie, as she's called now.
I know some people don't understand it, but it works for us. I've got a loving, supportive partner and, best of all, I'm still the traditional housewife I always wanted to be.
Penny de Kwant, 45, Wanneroo, Australia