The boy who vanished

I'd found my soulmate- but now something was coming between us...

Published by: Clare Stone
Published on: 1 September 2011

The curling tongs glided through my sister Rebecca’s hair as 
I watched jealously through the crack of her bedroom door.
While my other sister Rachel coated her lips in gloss, I imagined the sticky sensation and the taste of strawberries in my mouth.
I wish I could do my hair and put on lipstick…
‘What do you want?’ asked Rebecca, 15, spotting my reflection in her mirror.
‘C-can I curl my hair?’ I asked innocently. I was six, and their room was the ultimate in everything girlie.
‘You know Mum doesn’t like you doing it,’ said Rachel, 14.
‘Can I have some lipstick instead, then?’ I begged.
‘No,’ sighed Rebecca, ushering me out of their room.
‘It’s not fair,’ I wept, running downstairs to the kitchen where my mum Judy was cooking tea. ‘I want to wear make-up.’
‘Darling, you can’t,’ she said gently. ‘You’re a boy…’
‘And boys, Matthew, don’t wear make-up,’ interrupted my dad Brian, looking up from his paper. Instead of telling me off for not tidying my room, or being naughty, all my parents seemed to do was reprimand me for liking what my sisters did.
Yes, I was a little boy, but I longed to do what little girls did, and I had no idea why.
I’d even begged my parents to paint my room lilac and get me a Care Bears duvet cover.
Mum sometimes even treated me to a My Little Pony, when she got fed up with me pestering her. Although, she’d never let me take them outside.
‘You don’t want people thinking you’re strange,’ she’d say, stuffing them in her handbag.
Well, I certainly felt strange. And the older I got, the stronger that feeling grew.
It wasn’t just that I wanted to dress like a girl. I naturally walked with a wiggle in my hips, spoke with a soft voice, and even sat with my legs crossed.
The more I acted like a girl though, the more pressure it inevitably put on my relationship with Mum and Dad.
They started making me go to see a counsellor.
‘They’ll help you understand you’re a boy,’ explained Mum.
‘It’s for your own good,’ added Dad. ‘We don’t want you picked on because you’re different.’
Sadly, though, Dad’s prediction was right, and I was bullied. Other kids couldn’t understand it, I was a boy on the outside, but wanted to act like a girl.
I didn’t understand, either. This wasn’t an underlying urge I was giving in to – it was what felt like the most natural thing in the world.
At 14, while other boys were doing things like playing football, I’d travel to Birmingham from Dudley each weekend and trawl markets for skirts, velvet jackets and pink Dr Martens.
Back home, I’d slip into my girlie outfits and feel fantastic. But my parents found it too hard to cope with, and made the heartbreaking decision to put me into care.
‘You need help, and we don’t know what to do,’ worried Mum.
I felt as if I didn’t fit in anywhere, at home, school, in my own body… As soon as I was old enough, I got myself a job working in the cloakroom of a gay nightclub in Birmingham.
Suddenly, I felt… normal. No one gave a second glance when I wandered in wearing leggings and miniskirts.
Things seemed to slot into place – surely I was just a bloke who liked wearing women’s clothing?
Then one night, my colleague Beth came over to see me.
‘This is my stepbrother Rob,’ she beamed. ‘Can you put his coat in for free?’ 
‘S-sure,’ I stuttered, swept away by this hunk she was introducing.
‘Thanks,’ he smiled, holding my gaze. Tall, broad, with warm brown eyes and a scar running down one cheek, Rob Deane, 23, was gorgeous.
Did these feelings mean I was gay? Was that the reason why I was so effeminate?
It seemed to make sense, but there was only one way to find out.
From then on, whenever Rob came into the club, I was a total flirt! He worked as a builder, was funny, intelligent... and I was falling for him.
Luckily, he felt the same way. Before long, he asked me out.
‘I don’t understand this. I-I’ve never been with a man before,’ he confessed. ‘But you look and act so much like…’
‘A girl,’ I finished. ‘I know. I look like a man, but I don’t feel like one. It’s so hard to explain.’
But Rob was so understanding, sliding his manly fingers around my dainty, soft ones. ‘It must be awful for you,’ he soothed.
He was wonderful, everything I’d wanted the love of my life to be. Judging from the way he gazed into my eyes, he felt the same. When we were in his flat, I felt like we were wrapped up in our own little world.
That was the problem, though. Rob wanted us to stay in that bubble  and I wanted to shout our love from the rooftops, I was so happy.
‘Why can’t we go out, hold hands in public?’ I asked one night.
Rob hung his head. ‘I love you, but I… I just can’t. I’m not gay,’ he insisted.
He saw the woman I’d wanted to be when I was younger. I was so confused – and so was he. He even started calling me Adele, because he said it suited me so much.
After six months together, the confusion tore us apart. ‘I love you dearly, but I don’t think I can spend the rest of my life with a bloke,’ Rob said.
Maybe if I beefed myself up, I’d feel more manly. So, in my heartbreak, I covered myself in tattoos and started taking hormones to make me look more masculine.
Still, it didn’t help clear up the confusion I felt inside.
I remembered back to the counselling I’d had as a boy, maybe it was time I had more, got myself sorted once and for all? So, I went to see my doctor.
‘I think I need to see someone,’ I told him, as he scanned through my notes. 
Then he cleared his throat and frowned. ‘I’m going to refer you to a consultant,’ he said. 
‘Okay,’ I said slowly. ‘But why?’
‘I think it’s best they explain everything,’ he said gently. 
What couldn’t he tell me?
I had no idea what to think as I waited nervously for my appointment a few days later.
‘A-am I okay?’ I croaked. ‘My doctor wouldn’t tell me anything. I just wanted to speak to someone.’
The consultant looked at me and took a deep breath.
‘It seems that you are intersex,’ he replied.
‘I’m inter-what?!’ I asked.
‘You were born male and female,’ he continued. ‘Your parents chose to raise you as a boy because you have a penis, but your body actually produces both male and female hormones.’
Some people would have expected me to run screaming from his office in shock, even disgust, or burst into tears. But for me, this was a light bulb moment.
Everything suddenly made sense – always feeling like a girl, finding men attractive, but wondering if I was truly gay, my delicate skin, soft voice…
‘The counselling you had was supposed to help you come to terms with being a boy.’
‘It was never going to work, because my parents just made the wrong decision,’
I whispered. ‘It’s not that I want to be a woman, I am a woman.’
I could understand why they’d tried bringing me up as a boy. After all, from the outside, that’s what I looked like. 
And I could understand they’d hidden it from me so as not to confuse me.
But emotionally and physically, all I’d ever wanted to be was female. And now, finding out I was intersex seemed to give me the permission to be just whoever I wanted to be.
‘I don’t want to live like a man any more,’ I sobbed, feeling relieved. ‘I want to be a woman.’
‘It won’t be easy,’ the consultant warned. ‘You’ll need to live as a woman for a time first, regularly see a counsellor.’
‘Anything,’ I said. 
I started taking female hormone tablets, had two operations to give me a more slender nose and 36B breasts, and wore women’s clothes all the time.
Suddenly, I felt like the person I was always meant to be.
After two and a half years, I was ready for the final stage. Doctors were going to create a vagina out of my penis.
‘You don’t know what this
means to me,’ I whispered tearfully, as I was wheeled to surgery.
At last I was going to become the woman I’d wanted to be…
Still one thing played on my mind – Rob. Male or female, I couldn’t get my first love out of my mind. Would we stand a chance now? After all, the stumbling block had been that Rob wasn’t gay. I had to know the answer, and so I decided to track him down.
A month after my operation I was allowed home, and instantly started trawling Facebook. After days of flicking through Rob Deanes, a familiar face popped up on my screen – that scar and those warm brown eyes.
‘It’s him!’ I croaked, tears welling.
Hands shaking, I typed him a message.
I don’t know if you remember me, I’ve changed a bit since we last met…
Days later, my phone rang – it was Rob!
‘I’m so glad you called,’ I cried.
‘Hello... um… what do I call you,’ he stumbled, nervously.
‘Adele,’ I said quietly. ‘I want to be called Adele now.’
He chuckled. ‘I always thought it was perfect for you.’
We arranged to meet up the following week. Adjusting the black blouse and grey skirt I’d bought to show off my womanly curves, I nervously stepped off the train in Birmingham. 
Then I saw Rob, leaning against a lamp-post. He was 40 now, but still handsome, with shaved hair and stubble.
‘Adele, y-you look amazing.’ 
I gave a little twirl and giggled. ‘I feel amazing.’
‘I’ve missed you,’ he said, hugging me.
We spent the day catching up – and then held each other all night. It felt just like we’d never been apart.
‘I was a fool to let you go,’ admitted Rob. ‘I loved you for you, not because you were male or female, but I was too worried about what people would say.’
‘I understand,’ I said.
‘Now I want to do things properly,’ he promised me.
Rob quit his job, packed his bags, and moved in with me. After 16 years apart, we didn’t want to waste another minute.
Two months later, we were walking through the local park together when Rob dropped to one knee.
‘You’re the love of my life,’ he said. ‘Marry me?’
He slid an amber ring on to my finger, and I burst into tears of happiness. 
Four months later, we tied the knot at our local town hall. 
Rob cried as I walked towards him in my stunning yellow wedding dress. And, that night, he made love to me as a woman for the first time.
After years of uncertainty, I can finally look forward to a wonderful future. At last, I’m the woman I always dreamed of – and I’ve landed the man of my dreams, too. 
Rob Deane, 40, says: ‘I always expected Adele to come looking for me. I knew that our time would be again. That’s the only reason I opened a Facebook site as I knew she would be a computer person, which I wasn’t.
‘I wasn’t surprised when it was a she, not a he, who contacted me because I never saw her as a boy.
‘It’s not the gender of a person you fall for, it’s the person themselves, so anyone can end up in a position like it when the love of their life is not who they expected it to be.’

Adele Deane, 33, Islington, North London