BIG READ: Once I opened the box, it wouldn't close
For most people, the shock of their long-term wife or husband coming out as transgender could lead to divorce.
But not for Joanne and Marie Lockwood.
Joanne, 52, was born a man and even joined the RAF as a teenager.
At 21 she met Marie, fell in love, got married and went on to have two much-adored children.
But it was only five years ago Joanne revealed that she identified as a woman, had been dressing up in female clothes since childhood and would even secretly wear Marie’s cast-offs.
It rocked their marriage but the couple, from Port Solent, stuck together and recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.
Joanne explains: ‘Every time I was in the house alone I would dress up.
‘I had recurring dreams of growing up as a woman. But I felt the older I got, the less of a reality it was going to be.’
At every opportunity Joanne would wear pretty skirts and dresses and began building up her own wardrobe.
Joanne says: ‘I went through a phase of wanting to go to sleep so I could live my dream life.
‘It became more and more important. But nobody in the world knew about it. As far as I was concerned, it was something to be hidden.
‘It was very much something that nobody talked about and if they did it wasn’t shown in a positive light.’
But with the advent of Facebook Joanne found a whole online community of others in the same position as her.
It was a revelation. She realised it was time to be honest.
Joanne says, ‘My wife and I were going through a bit of a rough patch in 2012. As part of that, I shared it with her.
‘I said that I cross dress and it was just something that I did.
‘She had absolutely no idea. There were a couple of incidents where she found a dress in the wardrobe and it didn’t fit her because it was my dress.
‘But she just thought it was hers.
‘Our marriage was at a point where we had to work out if we wanted to carry on.
‘But from that point, I tried some clothes on and put a wig on and she saw me. Once I told her, it wasn’t a secret anymore. I was more open about it.
‘It allowed me to have more confidence in my life and my wife would allow me to sit around in those clothes.’
A few months later, Joanne found a transgender group in Portsmouth and began going out on social nights with them.
Marie even went with her to meet her new friends.
‘That was a brave step,’ Joanne says.
‘I started going out for a walk dressed as a woman. I was very paranoid about seeing anybody.
‘If my son was around I would leave a bag of female clothes at the back door. It was very secretive. But I started understanding more about how other people identified and expressed themselves.
‘Once I had opened that box, I couldn’t put the lid back on. It’s that realisation that you can become that person.’
Joanne, who was 25 stone and a size 30 at the time, decided to lose weight, with her wife.
She dropped eight stone, got a new wig and finally began to identify with the real Joanne.
‘The person looking back at me in the mirror was me, for the first time,’ she says.
‘I remember sitting in the wig shop just crying.’
In the summer of 2016, Joanne broke the news that she wanted to identify as a women to her daughter, now 25 and son, 24.
They wish to remain anonymous.
Both took time to come to terms with the news but have been supportive.
‘My daughter already suspected something because I had had my nails done and shaved my legs,’ she says.
‘We cried a bit and we talked about it.
‘It took a few days to come to terms with it.
‘But even now I dress as a man when I see them. ‘We talk openly about it.
‘My wife had this vision of getting married and having kids and growing old together. She had a very traditional image of how our lives would evolve.
‘I’m not overly-comfortable forcing my children into that place.
‘I can’t be selfish to the point where I destroy other people.
‘To me, it’s about expressing myself to people who don’t know me. I wear clothes that I want to wear and feel comfortable in.’
Earlier this year Joanne sold her business and officially changed her name so she can identify as Joanne.
‘I decided I couldn’t come out at work. It was too much to worry about. I needed a change.’
She broke the news to family and friends, including her mum and her brother.
She also has an appointment at a gender identity clinic for an assessment with a specialist and has started hormone treatment.
Joanne has grown breasts but has decided she is happy in her body now and doesn’t wish to have surgery.
‘To me, surgery isn’t important,’ she adds.
‘I have become comfortable in my own skin.
‘ I will never say never but I don’t look in the mirror now and say “I don’t like that”.’
Now, Joanne and Marie are very happy together.
‘We just had our 30th wedding anniversary,’ she says.
‘We got each other new rings. I have a belief that this will work between us. We still love each other and we are soulmates.
‘It’s hard, but marriage is hard.’
n To see a video of Joanne, go to portsmouth.co.uk.
RINGING THE CHANGES
Joanne Lockwood has started her own business called See Change Happen to promote equality in the workplace.
She is working with businesses to support them and educate them on issues that may affect their employees.
‘I am positive about equality, diversity and inclusion,’ she says.
‘I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 18 months chatting with friends in a very amateur way – sharing what has and hasn’t worked for me.
‘It helps people struggling with their identities.
‘My wife and I have still got a relationship and are still together. I still have a relationship with my kids.
‘That’s given me the motivation to work with businesses.
‘I know that these people aren’t the best employees that they can be.
‘They have a lot of things going on in their heads.
‘What I want to do is offer that support to people and their businesses.
‘I want to offer a pragmatic approach to it.’
To find out more information, visit Joanne’s website at seechangehappen.co.uk.