It all started in Jessops Hospital, Sheffield, where I was born Stephen.
For the first three years of my life we lived with my Grandma before moving to a new house in Woodhouse. My parents were lovely and I miss them so much now they are gone. They brought me up to be a nice person though, sadly, throughout my life some people have taken advantage of my good nature and used this to hurt me. I decided years ago however that no matter what these people did to me I would never change from my upbringing – to do that would make me just as bad as them.
As I grew older I began to wish I had been born a girl. I noticed the attractiveness of women and observed the way had the ability to change themselves in many ways. I also loved the perfume that they used and once old enough to go get my haircut on my own, I always went to a lady's hairdresser. I loved the atmosphere and the smell of all the products, much more exciting than going to the barbers.
When I was young I was not aware that it was possible to change your gender. There was no Internet in those days and I had never came across any information that would lead me to think it was possible. I still wished that I had been born a woman, but life had to carry on and I just lived for now as any other boy and young man would do.
At 16 I met my first wife and we were married three years later. We had two lovely sons and now I have two lovely grandsons as well. I was with my first wife for 23 years and we had some good times together. In 1985 we started to run pubs and on nights such as New Year's Eve my wife would get me dressed up in her clothes and do my make-up and everything. I think she quite enjoyed it but probably not as much as me.
On one occasion my brother-in-law at the time, who sadly passed away a few years ago at an early age, was showing photographs to his friend who friend who commented on my attractiveness – and continued to do so even once he had been told that it was me in the picture! That has always stuck in my mind and I thought to myself that I must have looked okay.
Sadly my wife's mother died and I tried to keep the business pressures off of her. She became friends with a guy in the bar which ultimately led to her leaving me for him. I was heartbroken and it took me a long time to move on from our relationship. My two sons stayed with me which really helped me get through it all. I had to leave my pub as well but I had bought a karaoke system when karaoke first came to this country and I was one of the first entertainers with a karaoke show. I did this for a living and used to work seven nights a week doing pubs, clubs and army camps, especially Catterick.
The nature of being an entertainer meant there was no shortage of female attention, but I shied away from this as I had my two sons to take care of and they were the most important thing to me.
I did become lonely however and went to a dating agency. Here, I was introduced to my second wife. I carried on with the karaoke until my ex-boss contacted me about improving a hotel he owned which he wanted to sell. We discussed it as a family and took on the challenge. Sadly, my wife quickly changed when we took on the project and became violent towards me and horrible to my sons. I have never understood the violence and it was a very difficult time for me. Eventually I just filled my car with whatever I could get in it and went to live with my sister in Sheffield.
Somewhat on the rebound I met my third partner. I went to live with her and her son and we bought a house together. I have always been interested in photography and decided this was the time to open my own studio. I completed some free shoots to get pictures for my website which led me being approached by beautician and hairdresser who coaxed me into creating a photo studio, hair and beauty salon. During this time my partner was out a lot in the evenings at bingo and I bought some female clothes and used to get dressed while she was out. I put some pictures on online and I was amazed at the positive response I received.
I knew about photography but nothing about beauty and hair and therefore took up training in beauty therapy. One of the staff needed a case study for her wax training so I volunteered to have a complete body wax. When it was done I regretted it immediately! I was burning so much, especially around my collarbone. However, a few days later I started to love having no hair on my body and I have never had any since. This was the time when I really wanted to become a woman. I had not been getting on with my partner as she was out most of the time and was very controlling. We had a touring caravan sited on the East coast and as things between me and my partner became more strained I used to go to their on my own. This is where I lived my life as a woman. At that time I called myself Abigail and I made a lot of friends at the East Coast - they made me feel like a celebrity.
Returning home used to make me feel quite sad so I started going out as a woman there as well. It wasn’t as easy to be open about who I was back home however. I had to put my make-up on with no lipstick and wore sunglasses to cover my eyeshadow. I would put my female clothes but hide them under men's clothes. Whilst now I have my own hair, at that time I was wearing wigs and had to put this in a bag and drive somewhere quiet where I could get fully changed. I would also have to wait until it was fully dark to go home again so that I wasn’t seen. I hated it. While this was happening my partner had become more and more controlling. Eventually, I’d had enough and insisted that she leave.
That was in December 2014 and by the following February I could no longer stand living a double life. On a drive home I made the decision to come out. I had been thinking about this for a long time, but I was scared what everyone might think. My sons and my sister knew that I dressed as a woman but thought this was only for fun.
When I got home I went straight to my computer and typed a letter to my neighbours and the postman. I was fully supported by all of them and my young neighbours next door were kind enough to invite me round for a drink that night. That had been one of the hardest things I'd ever done but also one of the best. However, I was still worried about my business and telling the people I dealt with about the new me. I spoke to my doctor about being referred to the Gender Clinic and she was very supportive. When I told her my reservations about my business she commented that if clients didn’t like me as I am, did I really want to be involved with them? That conversation really changed things for me and gave me so much confidence.
In July that year I change my name by deed poll to Stephanie Abigail. I loved my Mum and Dad and they named me Stephen so I wanted to keep that name and changed to the female version. I kept Abigail as my middle name because many people know me as Abigail. I didn't want to take hormones for health reasons so in August that same year I had breast augmentation. Along with growing my hair, this made me feel incredibly confident.
Another milestone came when, after an 18 month wait, I had my first of three Gender Clinic appointments. These were all very helpful, providing voice training and an electrolysis allowance. Finally, I went through the long and painful process of applying for my Gender Recognition Certificate which I received in October 2017. I was now legally a woman. This also allowed me to apply for a new birth certificate which says I was born a girl.
Now I am living my happily ever after.
I have supported Sheffield United since I was six years old. I am now 71 and have had season ticket for a lot of my life. Both my sons and now both my grandsons are also fans. My eldest lives in Cardiff with my youngest grandson and they travel to home games when they can. My youngest son and eldest Grandson have sat alongside me on The Kop for many years and I also have had a season ticket for Sheffield United Ladies for the past 3 seasons.
I am totally accepted by the club who welcome me in every way which is fantastic.
Trans Awareness Week is important as it is an opportunity to show we are real normal people who just live normal lives and do normal things just like everyone else. We just feel more comfortable in our chosen gender as opposed to our birth gender. It’s as simple as that.