As I put on my make-up, I could feel my boyfriend Shaun watching me.

‘Won’t be long,’ I promised him. ‘I know this must be really boring for you.’

‘It’s OK,’ he said. ‘I like watching you.’

I smiled. That was typical Shaun.

We’d met through friends in January 2010 and hit it off straight away. Sensitive and sweet, he was totally different to my previous boyfriends, and we quickly became inseparable.

Although we were both still living with our parents, we started planning our future together. We talked about getting married and even discussed kids’ names. I couldn’t have been happier. I was sure he was the one and he told me he felt the same.

Only then, at the end of the summer Shaun started to become withdrawn, in his own little world.

I tried talking to him but he pushed me away. I wondered if there was something wrong at work? He worked in a supermarket. But he promised me everything was fine.

Was it me? I wondered. Or worse another woman? But he was still so affectionate… even Mum said he adored me. He’d spend evenings laying next to me on the settee stroking my long brown hair.
We spent all our time together, surely there couldn’t be anyone else ?

After a month, I couldn’t take it anymore.

‘You’ve got to tell me what’s wrong,’ I begged him.

‘I can’t. I just can’t,’ he said.

I could see it was eating him up. I really started to worry. Was he dying?

‘Would it be easier if you wrote it down?’ I asked.

He nodded, so I handed him a notebook and pen.

He quickly scribbled something then handed it back and covered his face with his hands.

My heart hammering, I looked at what he’d written –

I wish I was a girl

Was this some kind of joke?

But Shaun was crying. This was for real.

I started to cry too. Shaun hugged me.

‘Are you talking about a…sex change?’ I sobbed.

He shrugged. ‘I’ve been dressing up secretly in girls clothes since age of 15.’
At first I felt relief. At least there was nobody else.

But as the reality of what my man had just admitted sank in my mind raced. Did I miss the signs? But no, Shaun had always been a jeans and a top kind of guy.

‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ I told him as we lay side-by-side.

‘I can’t lose you,’ he said. ‘I love you so much.’

And I loved him too. But this…

We stayed up all night crying.

‘Is it me?’ I finally whispered. ‘Is it something I’ve done?’

‘No!’ he said.

‘Do you think you might be gay?’ I pressed.

But he promised me he wasn’t interested in men at all. ‘I fancy you like mad,’ he said.

‘It’s like I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body,’ he explaind.

That morning he left for an early shift at the supermarket.

‘I still want us to be together more than anything,’ as he said goodbye. ‘Please think about it.’ The truth was I could think of nothing else.

As soon as he left I took out my laptop and started looking at forums where people’s partners were cross-dressers. Had they decided to stick it out?

Mostly yes. Relief surged, perhaps that meant we had a chance of coming through this too. But they were so seriously involved, often married with kids, it was harder for them to leave.

My mind whirred as I watched a youtube clip of two sisters talking about how their daddy was trapped in a woman’s body, it suddenly dawned on me – would I be having that conversation with my own kids one day.

My head was in pieces. But despite everything, I loved Shaun. So I decided I had to give it a go. I couldn’t bale out on the man I loved when he needed me most. I’d always considered myself open minded, I had to try.

I went over to his house after work but with all his family there it was hard to get a minute on our own.

Eventually, I took him to one side.

‘I’m ok with it, I want us to stay together too,’ I told him.

He was delighted. ‘I know we can make this work,’ he said clasping my hand tight.

But the secret lay heavy on my shoulders. Now it was me who was quiet and withdrawn while Shaun seemed happier and more relaxed than he had in ages.

My parents were really worried about me. Dad even phoned Mum to ask if she’d noticed a difference in me.

‘No matter what it is,’ you can tell me darling,’ Mum said that weekend.

But I pretended everything was fine. I wanted to open up and tell someone so much but the truth was I didn’t know where to begin? Telling my mum that my boyfriend was a cross dresser was one conversation I didn’t know how to start. Besides I had promised Shaun to keep quite. It meant a lot that I was the first person he had ever been able to tell.

But while I was going more and more off the idea, Shaun was just finding his stride.

He ordered a wig online.

‘Can I have it delivered to your house?’ he asked. He couldn’t risk his parents opening it.

‘I suppose so,’ I said.

‘Do you like this, or do you think I’d look better in this one?’ he asked.

He was pointing at ones that looked like mine – long dark hair with a block fringe. It freaked me out

‘If it’s what you want…’ I said, hating myself for not being more supportive.

When it arrived I cleared one of my drawers for him to put it in, along with some of my clothes I didn’t wear any more.

That weekend, Dad was off camping. Shaun asked if it was OK if he could dress up as a woman.

He pulled on a pair of my leggings, denim shorts and one of my tops.

‘Can I borrow some of your make-up, too?’ he asked. ‘I might need some help putting it on.’

As I put on his lipstick, he giggled. I’d always wondered what it felt like to have a sister. Now I knew. Only I wanted a boyfriend.

Finally, he put the wig on. Stood side by side in the mirror we could have passed for twins.

It was crazy.

‘Can we go to the park for a bit?’ he asked.

It was dark outside so I agreed.

But as I watched him walking along in a pair of my slouch boots, something died.

And when he tried to kiss me I didn’t feel a thing.

We were still sleeping together. I still fancied Shaun when he was dressed as a man. But going to bed with my ‘twin’? I couldn’t do it. It was just too weird.

‘Not even a kiss?’ Shaun asked, dejected.

But it made me feel really uncomfortable. ‘Just let me get used to it one step at a time,’ I soothed.

Maybe in time I can get past this? I wondered. After all my whole future was entwined with Shaun. But deep down, I had my doubts. I was torn and it showed.

‘What’s wrong?’ Dad kept asking. ‘It’s like you’re not with us anymore.’

In the end Shaun agreed I could tell my mum if it would help me cope better with the situation.

I waited until we were in the car and then just blurted it all out –

‘Shaun wants to be a girl.’

She pulled over and stopped the car then hugged me. ‘I’m so, so sorry,’ she soothed. ‘ You’ll meet someone else.’

She thought we’d broken up. That it was over.

‘Mum, I’m staying with him,’ I said. ‘We’re going to make a go if it.’

Her mouth fell open. I could tell she was shocked.

‘It’s your decision but it’s going to be very difficult,’ she said eventually.

At the same time, Shaun had decided to tell Matt his secret. They’d been best friends for years.

He’d gone to see him with photos of him dressed as girl on his mobile.

‘Everything’s going to be fine,’ I told him as he set off on the bus. Matt was a lovely bloke and I knew he would want to support Shaun just as much as me.

‘How did it go?’ I asked him later.

‘OK, I guess,’ he shrugged.

That evening, I messaged Matt to see how he was feeling. I’d promised Shaun I wouldn’t talk about him but I needed to speak to someone.

Turns out Matt was as confused as I was.

It felt such a relief to know I wasn’t alone and soon we were chatting on Blackberry Messenger every day.

We discussed how we could support Shaun and accept the new him. But we’d talk about other things too. Matt would ask me how my day was; how work had gone; whether I’d watched the soaps. It was nice to be able have a normal conversation that didn’t involve wigs or make up, to be honest.

I understood this was a massive thing for Shaun but recently it seemed all we did was talk about him and his issues. It was nice for someone to show an interest in me for once.

And the more I chatted to Matt the more certain I was that I couldn’t see a future together with Shaun. Not now.

A few days later, I decided I had to tell him.

‘I know this a massive thing for you and I want to be there for you but we’re on different paths now,’ I told him. ‘I still want to be friends but I can’t do this anymore.’

As I cried my eyes out he didn’t say a word.

And the next day he invited me over as if nothing had happened.

‘I can’t be your girlfriend anymore Shaun,’ I told him as he started talking about the future.

He looked distraught. I felt awful. I hadn’t wanted it to be like this.

One evening a few weeks later I was at Mum’s house when I got a text from Matt. Turns out he was at his friend’s house a few streets away.

‘Someone special?’ Mum said, watching my face. ‘It’s the first time I’ve seen you smile in weeks.

So I told her.

‘Go over and see him,’ she urged.

So I did. And for the first time in months I felt fun and…young.

But one thing led to another and before long, we were kissing.

‘We probably shouldn’t have done that,’ I said, pulling away.

But we decided that it was time we put our feelings first now.

We knew we had to tell Shaun, we were just waiting for the right time.

Only Shaun had already started to get suspicious.
Then he saw we’d been meeting up on facebook.

‘You can’t do this to me!’ he screamed down the phone to Matt. ‘You have to choose, her or me.’

But Matt refused to let Shaun dictate who he could see.

‘Now I’ve lost my girlfriend and my best friend. I don’t have anything left,’ he cried.

Worried he might do something daft, I spoke to him begged to him to tell his family.

But still he refused to listen.

Although we were sorry Shaun was so devastated, it was a relief to start being honest, too. We’d all kept enough secrets.

Only Shaun didn’t feel that way. Still fuming, a few days later he threw a bag full of my clothes he’d borrowed over the garden fence.

‘This has to stop,’ Dad told him. One year on Matt asked me to marry him.
‘Yes,’ I squealed with joy knowing that this time I really had found my soul mate.
Then in July last year we moved into our own place together. Life was perfect.
But we still felt bad about Shaun.

Then recently we heard he’s been posting videos of himself on youtube giving make up tutorials to other cross dressers, and has opened a facebook page as his alter-ego.
It’s a sign that he’s finally come to terms with who he is.

I really do hope so. He’s a lovely guy and he makes a lovely girl too.
But Matt’s all man and that’s what I need.