Granddad's dirty secret

I had to free the woman I'd held captive for too long...

Published by: Jean Jollands & Jen Tippet
Published on: 23rd June 2011

The coast was clear. Jumping out of bed, I sneaked into my older sister’s room. Standing on a chair, I rummaged through her wardrobe and found Gill’s tap dancing outfit – a dress with a red satin bodice and a black skirt. Excitedly, I slipped it on. It was a bit big for my six-year-old frame, but it felt fantastic…
Just then, I heard footsteps at the bottom of the stairs.
‘Colin, dinner’s ready, love,’ Mum called.
Hurriedly, I pulled off the dress, and fled back to my room where I was supposed to be recovering from flu.
‘Coming,’ I croaked.
You might think it’s normal for a little boy to play dress-up, but I wasn’t interested in cowboys or pirates. All I wanted was to twirl about in Gill’s glitzy costumes.
I loved the soft, slinky feel of them, but I knew other boys my age didn’t. I was different to them, and my three older brothers.
Growing up, and desperate to fit in, I played football and rugby at school, but back home I’d raid Mum’s make-up bag when she was out, trying on her pink lippy.
It was as if I was living two separate lives – on the outside I was a boy, but inside I loved all things girlie.
I knew no one would understand, though. I didn’t myself. Still, as I grew older, the urge to indulge my feminine side grew stronger.
Hoping it was just a phase, aged 14, I hit on an idea of how to break the spell held over me by women’s clothes once and for all.
One evening, I ventured out dressed as a girl.
My brothers had left home, Gill was out with mates and my parents were downstairs watching telly. So, heart thumping, I pulled on a slinky red dress of Gill’s, squeezed my size seven feet into a pair of her kitten heels and dabbed on some make-up.
Walking along the dark streets of Addlestone in Surrey, though, my idea had the opposite effect.
This felt so right.
Instead of tight jeans and starched collars, the silk dress against my skin was gentle.
But this was the 1960s, men couldn’t go around dressed as women. ‘I was born a man, like it or lump it,’ I told myself. ‘I have to put a stop to this dirty secret.’
But my secret didn’t stay that way for long.
Sneaking home two hours later, I tried the back door, but it was locked. Rattling it hard, the kitchen light snapped on and the door flew open.
‘Gotcha!’ Dad shrieked, thinking I was a burglar. His mouth dropped open as he took me in, done up to the nines.
‘My God, boy!’ he gasped. ‘What have you done?’
‘I-I…’ I stammered.
But how could I explain his beloved son felt happier dressed this way?
Standing there, I expected him to go mad. Instead…
‘You need to see a doctor,’ he sighed, shaking his head.
Maybe he just couldn’t face the truth, because after that it was never mentioned again.
Besides, being caught out only made me more determined to erase the female yearnings inside me. Ashamed, I was determined to be normal.
At 16 I got a tattoo of a tiger the length of my left forearm, rode a motorbike and later started working as a builder.
Yet the urge to slip into a dress didn’t subside.
By day I’d go on site in paint-splattered overalls and a hard hat and, at 5ft 10in and10st 7lbs, I definitely looked the part. But when a girl walked past and the blokes wolf-whistled, I’d be wondering where she’d bought her skirt!
I had to suppress my urges, though. They were wrong.
Trying my best to act like any other man, I got married at 21 to Shirley, 22, and we had three daughters, Isabelle, Jenny and Annabelle. But on the sly I’d visit women’s clothes shops, buy a size 12 pencil skirt or size 7 heels.
For 12 years, me and Shirley practically lived separate lives, with me scurrying off shopping for ladies’ outfits while she watched Corrie.
But the secrecy was eating away at me all that time.
One night, in bed, I snapped. ‘I have something to tell you, Shirley,’ I said, taking a deep breath.
‘Right?’ she said.
‘I-I like dressing as a woman,’ I blurted.
Just like I had with my dad, I waited for her to start screaming at me…
‘Okay,’ she shrugged instead.
But what kind of reaction was that?! Worse still, she never mentioned it again. All I could think was, like my parents, she was hoping if she ignored the problem it would go away.
But it didn’t.
How can you possibly live with someone who you’re supposed to trust completely when they’re living a lie?
A year later, we split up. Yet I kept conning myself and, four years later, married Lucy, 21.
This time I told her about my cross-dressing from the start.
‘I wear women’s clothes, but it doesn’t mean I’m any less a man,’ I tried reassuring her – and myself.
‘It’s okay,’ she soothed. ‘I can handle it.’
But each time she caught me in yesterday’s mascara, I could see the disgust in her eyes.
We had two children together – Marie and Michael – but I was more depressed than ever by my double life.
After 17 years together, we split up. ‘You need to get your head straight,’ she told me gently. ‘Do what’s best for you.’
Living alone, I grew more depressed. Lucy’s words echoed in my head.
Do what’s best for you…
Aged 53, I’d now wasted half of my life pretending to be something I wasn’t.
‘It’s time to become the woman I’ve always wanted to be,’ I declared to myself.
Rummaging through my wardrobe, I bagged up all my men’s clothes and threw them out.
‘Goodbye Colin, hello Chloe!’ I beamed happily.
Going out and about dressed as a woman was nerve-racking at first, but it felt so right I soon stopped worrying about it.
Finally, I was the true me.
Next I started taking hormone tablets, but knew I wanted to go all the way with a sex change. Now a granddad, though, I was worried how my children would take it.
Back in my day, transsexuals were unheard of, but times had certainly changed…
‘It’s your life, do what you have to,’ Michael smiled. ‘You’re still my dad.’
‘Be true to yourself,’ said Marie in agreement.
Although I’d lived a lie for all that time, it seemed my timing was perfect for becoming who I truly wanted to be, everyone was so understanding. Transsexuals were no longer taboo!
So, now, while most 60 year olds are thinking about pensions and bus passes, I’m saving up to get rid of my privates – and I couldn’t be happier!
• Finding Chloe by Chloe Oliver is available from Mathias Press, priced £7.99.
Chloe Oliver, 60, Tarn-et-Garonne, France