I'm ashamed of showing my partner my body 15 Jul I explained to my employees that I had an unfortunate medical condition, and they have been remarkably accepting; of course, it makes it easier that I am their boss. It was more difficult for my family.
I feel fortunate that over time my family has been able to fully embrace me as Kate. I felt awkward and self-conscious around my old friends as I was transitioning. My best friend, a man, lasted the course and we are still friends to this day.
I consider having been raised as a boy to be a significant advantage in business. It has not only given me an unusual outlook, but put me at a huge advantage, because I was brought up to be confident business-wise, and technologically inclined. A lot of the women I meet who want to go into business have all the skills but lack the confidence, which is also partly why many women in IT are still disadvantaged; they are paid a staggering 23 per cent less than men in the IT sector.
I am grateful to be so lucky in business; I never thought I would also be lucky in love. Who would have thought my life as Kate would turn out so well?
But a sex change in left her unemployed, friendless and broke. In she set up Transformation, a clothing company for transsexuals and transvestites. She then married her business partner, David. Together they own several successful businesses. Going into work one day dressed as a woman when you have lived your life up to that point as a man is an indescribably hard thing to do. But when the papers got hold of the story that a senior executive had had a sex change and was swapping pinstripes for stilettos, the shareholders, concerned about the company share price, wanted me out.
My wife, Marilyn, quite understandably left me. I made all of my possessions over to her and the children, leaving me, aged 37, with precisely 78p. Unemployed and unemployable, I very nearly committed suicide. It was during that bleak period that I had the idea for a shop selling clothes for transvestites and transsexuals. David, a plain-talking northern entrepreneur who already had a string of convenience stores, replied and we went into business together.
I knew the shop was a great idea, but in those days no one knew the difference between a transvestite, a transsexual, a gay and a pervert. The prejudice was rabid and widespread.
Customers were too frightened to come in, and the business was losing money fast. So I decided to shore up the business by selling my body to male customers in the upstairs room. But a year later I was charged with prostitution. We have been blissfully happy together ever since. Business picked up and we opened a string of new stores. We also started a mail-order catalogue company, which enabled us to sell all over the world.
In I opened the Albany Clinic in Manchester, which offers treatment and counselling for people affected by gender dysphoria. We then set up a telecoms company, a play-centre company and three other mail-order companies, and bought seven hotels in north Wales.
I would have been just as successful as Keith. I was estranged from my children for 20 years. I felt it was the least I could do in the circumstances; it was what she wanted. One day I got a call and it was my daughter, Rebecca. Slowly, we started a new relationship. A couple of years later my son Andy called; he now works with me. My other son, Stephen, got in touch, too, but then after a disagreement over money told me he never wanted to see me again.
I hope he changes his mind. I also have two stepdaughters, and between us David and I have 11 grandchildren. Five years ago the law changed and David and I were able to marry. I know, from having been a man, the extent to which men objectify women. As a woman I always notice the way business colleagues immediately defer to the man I am with, not realising I own and run the company.
Equality between the sexes? What a laugh that is. Oh, if only other women knew the real extent of it — there would be a revolution. Born a woman, he transitioned aged 19 and met his partner, Sarah, soon after. They live in Manchester with their four children. I spent the next eight weeks ill in bed, working out what to do. I moved out to a bedsit in a different part of Manchester and transitioned just before my 20th birthday. Hospitals in those days dictated that before you were allowed to take hormones you had to spend three months in your new gender role, which of course was terribly humiliating, because without hormones you look so unconvincing.
I was working as a lab technician at the time, and the persecution I received from my colleagues was horrendous. Things for trans people were appalling in those days.
All of my friends abandoned me. My family were shocked and horrified, but what could they do? Slowly, she came to terms with me as Stephen. Her father was absolutely horrified and begged her not to ruin her life. When I had surgery a year later I was the 13th female-to-male transsexual in Britain to have had treatment.
It was extraordinarily controversial in those days, and incredibly painful. But the hard work was just beginning. I applied to become a teacher and was told it would be impossible to have someone like me in the teaching profession. The idea you were a pervert was so endemic in those days.
Sarah and I moved back to Manchester, where I got a job at a centre for the unemployed. In my next job as a finance director for Age Concern Salford I exposed a fraud scam, but was still hounded out. It just kept happening. I took a law degree and in co-founded Press for Change, a lobbying organisation for trans people. I also began leading the case for the courts to accept non-biologically related families as families.
As Sarah and I have four children from donor insemination, this is a cause close to my heart. The act came into force in and Sarah and I were at last able to marry. I announce the fact I am transgendered to my new students at the beginning of each year. Some have been very abusive to me. Muslim students find it particularly difficult. Last year I had one student shout at me in the lecture hall in front of her year that I was disgusting for having kids and that they must hate me.
Can you imagine someone saying that to a person of a different ethnicity, or a disabled person?