My best friend's wedding

I was convinced my Barry was having an affair...

Published by: Isobel Dickinson and Fiona Ford
Published on: 27 October 2011

Funny the things that just leap out of your mouth sometimes from absolutely nowhere. Words that shock you, even though you're the one saying them.
Right now, I couldn't quite believe what I'd screamed, as my husband Barry stared at me, absolutely stunned.
‘You're having an affair!' I hadn't meant to scream that, hadn't even realised I'd suspected such a thing. But now that I'd said it, it did make sense...
I'd just walked in to find Barry tapping away on the computer once again. He spent all his time on it these days. Just six months earlier, I'd have come home to find he'd bought me roses, now I was lucky to get a grunt
in greeting from him.
We'd met through a lonely hearts ad and, despite him being 11 years younger than me, we'd enjoyed 11 wonderful years of marriage.
The problems had started when we'd decided to leave rainy Bradford and our newsagents business to start a new life in Murcia, Spain. At first, everything had been great. I remembered on our first night out after moving here, I'd sat at our dresser getting ready. ‘Does this colour lipstick suit me?' I'd asked.
‘Definitely,' Barry grinned, giving me the biggest cuddle.
Now he wouldn't notice if I was standing here naked. There was only one reason a man started acting all secretive...
So I'd marched into the living room and yelled: ‘You're having an affair!'
Finally, Barry found his voice.
‘Don't be daft,' he spluttered. ‘Look, I-I've been neglecting you. I'll make it up to you.'
Well, he would deny it, wouldn't he? But now I'd said the words I'd clearly been subconsciously suspecting for some time, so I decided to do some detective work. The second he left for his teaching job the next day, I rifled through his paperwork and found details about an online game called Second Life.
Barry had another life online. ‘He's having cybersex with another woman,' I raged. Cunning devil had even tried to hide his tracks by giving himself the name ‘Jayne' online.
I thrust the paperwork in his face when he got home. ‘What's this?' I snarled. ‘Who is Jayne? Is she your floozy?'
The colour drained from his face. ‘No! It-it's a daft game.'
I needed time to think. ‘I'm going back to Bradford for a fortnight,' I announced.
We spoke every night, and I felt a spark between us again. Yet when I returned, Barry just moped around. What was wrong with him?!
One night while cooking dinner, I worked myself up about it. At breaking point, I slammed down a saucepan and yelled: ‘Jesus, it can't be that bad. It's not like it's something to do with your gender.'
Just where had that come from?! Talk about random!
Barry had gone grey. With horror, I realised this time I was right.
‘How...' My husband faltered, started again. ‘How
do you know?'
I hadn't! A memory of him on our first date flashed. When I'd walked into the pub, he'd been sitting on a barstool. ‘Mmm,' I'd thought to myself. ‘Tall and broad, he's all man.'
Yet he wanted to be a woman.
I couldn't stand seeing him. Barging past, I raced into the street, kept running until I collapsed against a wall. I couldn't outrun reality, though.
When I returned home, Barry was sitting with his head in his hands. ‘Start from the beginning,' I whispered, pulling up a chair.
‘I was 11 when I first tried on my mum's clothes. It felt so right,' he croaked. ‘When I lived alone, I wore women's clothes and called myself Jayne.'
‘Was I a cover?' I asked him, feeling sick.
‘No! I stopped when I met you. Then I started living as Jayne online and thought that was enough, but... when you went away, I wore women's clothes. And afterwards, I hated saying goodbye to Jayne again.'
‘I just can't deal with this, I'm going to bed,' I wept. Barry went to follow me. ‘Are you joking?!'
I scoffed.
‘I-I want to be close to you,' he said.
‘You can sleep on the floor!' I replied.
The next weeks were hell. Whenever I looked at Barry, I felt his betrayal all over again. After a couple of months, I just wanted the nightmare to end, and swallowed a handful of paracetamol.
I slipped into unconsciousness, woke in hospital. Barry was sitting beside me. ‘Thank God,' he wept.
‘Why didn't you just let me die?' I asked.
‘Because I'd be lost without you,' he sobbed. That's when it hit me - I was lost without him, too. Not his clothes or stubble, but his kindness, affection and sense of humour. Who else would watch repeats of Blackadder back-to-back with me?
And that was the person Barry was, not the sex.
I didn't say anything, though. Instead, once I'd recovered, I started logging on to transsexual forums. I've never wanted to be with a woman, I typed, confused.
It's the person you love, someone replied.
Did I want to be with the person I loved, even if they wore skirts instead of trousers? Or did I want to be that lonely divorcee again?
I knew the answer. ‘I'm, err, ready to meet Jayne,' I said.
I waited nervously for this other woman to appear. Then Barry walked in wearing skinny jeans, a fleece, a dark brown wig, and natural-looking make-up.
‘Well,' I smiled tightly. ‘This is weird.' But I could certainly see something that I now realised had always been missing from my Barry - contentment. Taking a deep breath...
‘We're going shopping for some dresses,' I said. ‘You can't wear a fleece in this heat.'
From then on, Barry became Jayne permanently. The first time I saw her putting on mascara, I wanted to freak out, snatch the wand from her hand.
Instead, I took it from her gently. ‘This is how you do it,' I said, stroking the brush on her lashes. It wasn't just about the clothes, it was about Barry being treated as a woman.
The first time we slept together, it felt so natural. Without clothes on, I still had my Barry.
But in the morning, I found Jayne getting dressed.
To help, we went to therapy together. ‘I'm not a lesbian,' I said.
‘You're with the person you love,' the therapist insisted.
As time passed, our relationship only got better. Most people gave us their blessing, too. Then one day... ‘I married Barry,' I said.
‘I want to marry Jayne, too.'
‘Really?' she gasped, overjoyed.
Barry's name was legally changed to Jayne, then we returned to Bradford and had our marriage blessed in a church surrounded by family. He'd looked so handsome in his suit and blue tie at our first wedding, now she looked gorgeous in a posh frock.
Next year, Jayne's having breast implants, but I've drawn the line at the wedding tackle being given the chop. Maybe I need to know that a part of my Barry is still there. But we're both happy - and I feel doubly blessed to have married my best friend twice.
Anne Watson, 53, Murcia, Spain