When my wife told her mother about me earlier this year her first reaction was astonishment and anger: how could I possibly marry her daughter if I knew I was like this? A perfectly natural reaction. Fortunately my mother-in-law is a very sensible lady and once my wife had explained that not only had I really figured all this out in the years since we were married, but I was also doing everything I could to hang in there for her, her mother changed her position. I don't think she's ecstatic about it, but she's still there for both of us. Not for the first time I feel lucky in those around me.
More recently I've detected a different attitude from some sections of our own community, an idea that goes something like this: married people like me are simply closet gay men who play the field when they are younger before allowing themselves to fantasise about being a woman themselves in order to justify sleeping with men, not really caring about the heartache they cause to their spouses.
As you might expect, I find the first upsetting and the second downright offensive.
But it is an extremely valid thing to examine; how does someone who has had something of the girl about them for so long end up married? I can only answer from experience.
I think the key to it all is how you interpret what you see. When I was a very young child I wanted to be a girl. Whenever I could get away with it I dressed like one and since I grew up in an isolated part of the countryside and had two sisters, my playmates were mostly girls and I played largely in a girlish frame of mind. We made houses in our hedgerows, not forts.
But I never made the step into believing that I was a girl. I have always had a very empirical approach to life and the evidence in front of me said very clearly that I was a little boy. I never lost the desire to be female or wear female clothing as I grew up, but as time went by the real-world evidence that said "Boy" just got stronger. As a teenager I wondered whether I might be gay, a thought that was dispelled pretty quickly a few years later at university when I encountered openly gay people for the first time. Great bunch of lads, just nothing like me. Meanwhile the experience of a rather backward traditional British boys' school had forced me very deep into the closet and I'd tentatively identified myself as being a transvestite.
So there I was aged about twenty, a spotty geeky student. Clinically depressed and convinced I was a bloke with an unusually active but heavily suppressed female side. All my contemporaries were womanising to their heart's content or at least to the best of their abilities, but I wasn't. Not from lack of trying, or from lack of female friends, just that I had no success whatsoever in that department. I still count quite a few of my female contemporaries from that period among my close friends so I must have been doing something right, but I was far more likely to be supplying chocolate and hankies when they broke up with boyfriends than I ever was to climb into bed with them. Not so bad in a way, at least I never left a trail of wreckage behind like some of my friends did.
Thus I became an adult without figuring out any of this and certainly without any womanising whatsoever. If you'd asked me about my gender identity I'd have said "Bloke" and wild horses wouldn't have dragged from me the fact that I had a girl side or an eye for female clothing.
I doubt you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I cross-dressed during my twenties. But oh how I wanted to! No more luck with relationships, to put it in simple terms I didn't have a clue. I lived on a boat, rode a motorcycle, drove a dodgy old van and I worked in one of the cooler though more turbulent corners of the media business. Believe it or not, people told me they envied me. I should have told them what a panic attack was.
I met my wife when I was nearly thirty and fell head-over-heels. Later than all my contemporaries, we were the last of my group to get married when we did so a few years later. There's no bloke myth to shatter, she was my first and only girlfriend. As far as I knew my crossdressing was something I'd conquered and dealt with, it wasn't a problem. I could move forward and marry her and live happily ever after.
If I'd known back then the full extent to which all this would develop I don't think it would have changed my feelings towards my then-fiancée. I would most certainly have told her all about it and though I haven't asked her I suspect we might have parted company as a result. I would have been heartbroken, but at least I'd have saved her all this.
So there you are. That's how a closet trans person ends up married. No subterfuge, no concealed gayness. Nothing to be proud of either.