A wife has told how her marriage is stronger than ever after her husband started living as a woman.
Fiona Bosanquet was shocked when her husband Stephen told her after 10 years of marriage that he wanted to become Stephanie.
At first, the 48-year-old refused to accept the news and told her husband that their marriage would be over if he changed sex.
But Fiona has since decided to embrace her husband’s wishes and has welcomed Stephanie, 47, with open arms.
Stephanie, left, and Fiona Bosanquet say their marriage is ‘stronger than ever’ after the former started living as a woman
The couple, of County Durham, married in 1987, pictured, when Stephanie was Stephen
The couple, who have been married for 28 years and have four children, say they are now the happiest they have ever been.
Fiona said: ‘I can see now that Stephanie is so much happier living this way and that makes me happy.
‘Our marriage is stronger than ever and I’m just so happy that we are still a happy family.’
The couple, from County Durham, met in 1987 on a blind date and married one year later.
The couple went on to have four children Abigail, 27, Angela 24, Jack 18, and Amy, 16.
Soon after Jack was born Stephanie dropped the massive bombshell on Fiona.
Then living as Stephen, he confessed to his wife that he wished to transition into a woman leaving her confused and devastated.
Fiona said: ‘I just couldn’t believe it. In the ten years that we had been married I never suspected a thing.
The father-of-four, pictured, told Fiona she wanted to become a woman shortly after the birth of their son Jack 18 years ago
Stephanie said she had been uncomfortable as Stephen (pictured after the birth of eldest child Abigail) since the age of 10
‘I told him that if that were to happen, we wouldn’t be married anymore and it wasn’t spoken of again for a long time.
‘A while later, when he was still struggling with depression because of it, I reluctantly went to a gender identity clinic in Scotland but I sat in the car and didn’t want to be involved.
‘I can honestly say that if Stephanie had transitioned back then, we wouldn’t still be married.’
Stephanie said: ‘I knew from around the age of 10 that I was different.
‘I just kept it to myself, it wasn’t the done thing at the time.’
In late 2013, their marriage was at breaking point when Stephanie made the decision to leave Stephen behind for good.
Stephanie said: ‘I told her I just couldn’t live like this anymore. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin.’
Fiona, 48, left, said she was prepared to leave Stephanie when the issue was first raised but years later was able to accept her after undergoing counselling
She grew out her hair, started to shop in the women’s section and changed her name by deed poll to Stephanie.
It wasn’t until the couple saw therapist Emma Roebuck, from Gay Advice Darlington and Durham, who is a transgender woman, that Fiona began to understand and accept Stephanie for who she wanted to be.
Fiona said: ‘There isn’t a lot of help and support out there for partners of transgender people and it is equally as hard on us.
‘There are a lot of feelings of betrayal because you didn’t agree to marry this other person and grief that you are losing the person you fell in love with.
‘But now after becoming friends with Emma, I understand that Stephanie is still the same person but is much happier now living true to herself.’
The couple admit that their children struggled with the change in their lives but are adjusting to it everyday.
Fiona said: ‘Abigail and I went to see Emma alone first and she burst into tears and asked ‘Who is going to walk me down the aisle now?’
The couple have been married for 28 years and their children still call them ‘Mum and Dad’
‘It was heartbreaking because she thought she was losing her father but now she understands that it isn’t the case.
‘Amy was just excited at the thought of us all going to the Pride festival together now.
‘They all still call him Dad because I’m their Mum and always will be.’
Fiona has become so accepting that she has now started a new beauty business, Butterfly Therapies, providing hair electrolysis for transgender people so that they can remove unwanted facial hair at a lower cost.
She hopes to raise enough money to turn her business into a charity and eventually provide treatments for free.
Fiona said: ‘At first, I just didn’t understand it and I didn’t want to know anything about it.
‘But now that I understand how Stephanie feels, I couldn’t be happier that I decided to stay.
‘I’m so glad that we didn’t give up on our marriage.’
Stephanie, who is yet to undergo a sex change operation, added: ‘It means a lot to me that Fiona is now so accepting and has become a part of the community, helping other partners of transgender people.
Fiona (left) said Stephanie’s (right) transition prompted her to start a beauty business providing hair electrolysis for transgender people
‘I’m not proud of many things in my life but I am proud of my marriage and my children.’
Stephanie has been using prescription estrogen patches for the last six months in a bid to become more feminine.
She said: ‘Depending on the dosage, it will give you breast growth and reduce testosterone levels.
‘It works differently on different people and it would have a bigger effect on somebody who is 20.
‘I’ve had years of testosterone damage, I use that word because it is damage to trans people.
‘It also gives you a more feminine face but again that is depending on how old you are when you start taking it.’
Stephanie has never liked typically masculine hobbies such as football but did play Rugby in middle school from the age of 12 to around 15.
She said: ‘Looking back I don’t think I really enjoyed it. It was just something to pass the time.
‘It may or may not have been an attempt to fit in and do more masculine things.
‘If it was, it was subconscious and I didn’t realise it at the time.’
Stephanie was 5 feet 9 inches before she began hormone therapy but has now lost an inch which is common when taking estrogen.
She believes that her struggles with depression stem from something else but that her gender dysphoria ‘aggravates’ it.
She added: ‘I have coped with it for a long time and have learned new coping strategies after going to the Gender Identity Clinic.
‘Now that I am actually recognised as a woman by Fiona and the people that matter to me, it has improved.’